What was Milton's crisis in "On His Blindness"?

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"On His Blindness" uses the metaphor of light vs darkness to depict Milton's struggle with feelings of uselessness after going blind. The first line—"When I consider how my light is spent"—has the obvious meaning of considering how to spend one's daylight hours, but it also alludes to the purpose of human life itself: the "light" of the soul. If human beings are no more than beasts, they serve no greater purpose. Milton wrote in a deeply religious society, one that valued human life as superior. So, right away, he establishes in this poem that he is analyzing his spiritual significance in the world.

The question in line 7, "Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?" is another example of this layered meaning. In Milton's time, people worked by the light of day: there were no electric lights, and oil lamps and candles could be very expensive. In his blindness, Milton has been plunged into an eternal night, one with no work or productivity. But he realizes that this denial of light in the physical sense does not translate to the spiritual sense. Patience, a Christian value, quietly reminds him that God requires nothing from man. Often, an illness or disability, to a pious person, feels like a punishment from God. Certainly Milton, a writer who depended on his sight, would have felt this way. He struggles with the human need to have meaning in life, which stands in contrast to his spiritual beliefs: the common idea that God has a plan for everyone, even if it means pain and suffering.

The final lines show the resolution of Milton's crisis of faith and purpose. Patience reminds Milton that God has "thousands at his bidding speed/ And post o'er land and ocean without rest: / They also serve who only stand and wait." We know from lines 4 and 5 that Milton yearns to serve the Lord, and he feels that, in darkness, that ability has been taken from him. But God is the King of Kings, and he has thousands of servants who travel over land and sea at great speed. This is the life Milton desires, the one he values. But those "who only stand and wait" also serve God, and Milton seems to come to the conclusion that even with reduced abilities, the ability to serve God is not based on a physical state.

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"On His Blindness" by John Milton is written in the form of an Italian sonnet. It is an autobiographical poem written in the first person. It was written after Milton, a deeply religious writer, goes blind. 

The sonnet consists of two parts: an octave in which Milton laments his blindness, and a sestet in which he becomes reconciled to the blindness because he realizes God has willed it for a purpose.

The main crisis Milton experiences in the poem is not so much the blindness itself but the way the blindness interferes with his ability to write. He feels that his writing is doing God's work and his crisis derives from feeling that his blindness is a manifestation of God's rejection of him. He resolves this crisis by realizing God does not need or value us according to human standards, but rather according to our faith and obedience, as is conveyed in the lines:

God doth not need

Either man's work or his own gifts, who best

Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best.

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