What is the theme of Milton's sonnet "On His Blindness"?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Milton was a very religious man, as can be seen in his masterwork "Paradise Lost." He believed that he should devote his life to serving God with his writing. However, he went blind while he was in his forties and was obviously handicapped as a poet and essayist, although he was able to dictate to his daughters and others. This form of composition was frustrating, since he was such a deep thinker and such a perfectionist. In the sonnet "On His Blindness" he is not complaining about being blind but asking himself whether God still requires him to continue serving Him with his "one talent" of writing. He concludes by deciding that God does not need any particular individual to serve him because He has such power that He can send thousands on missions "at his bidding." And Milton ends this somber sonnet with a famous line: "They also serve who only stand and wait."