Introduction to On His Blindness

John Milton’s poem “On His Blindness” is an autobiographical sonnet in which Milton meditates on his own loss of sight. For most of his life, Milton had been able to see perfectly, but his late-night reading and writing on behalf of the government of the short-lived English Republic, in which he held a prominent position, helped ruin his eyesight. This sonnet—written in the Petrarchan rhyme scheme associated with the fourteenth-century Italian poet Francesco Petrarca—is divided into an eight-line “octave” and a six-line “sestet.” The sonnet is therefore a typical Petrarchan sonnet in form, but in subject matter, the poem departs from the topics usually associated with Petrarchan poems. Rather than writing about love, Milton departs from that conventional topic to deal with the very practical, physical problem of blindness, which he comes to understand and accept through a spiritual framework.

A Brief Biography of John Milton

John Milton (1608–1674) was an English poet who gained worldwide fame and influenced generations of writers. Though he died more than a hundred years before its inception, John Milton is considered one of the forefathers of the Romantic period. His seminal work, the epic poem Paradise Lost, influenced Romantic and gothic writers such as Mary Shelley, whose novel Frankenstein even features a quotation from Milton’s masterpiece. Throughout his life, he had strong opinions about government, religion, education, and society, and his pamphlet campaigns on these matters led to his incarceration and nearly cost him his life. Though Paradise Lost is a reflection of the failure of the Commonwealth period that Milton supported so ardently, it succeeded in catalyzing two centuries of English poetry.

Frequently Asked Questions about On His Blindness

On His Blindness

Milton addresses the question of stolen youth directly in his seventh sonnet, "On His Having Arrived at the Age of Twenty-Three," which begins How soon hath Time, the subtle thief of youth,Stol'n...

Latest answer posted January 1, 2021, 1:48 am (UTC)

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On His Blindness

John Milton's poem "On His Blindness" uses the word "light" for more than one purpose. At one level, the poem is often read as Milton's reaction to his loss of eyesight, which occurred when he was...

Latest answer posted December 31, 2020, 12:01 pm (UTC)

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On His Blindness

John Milton wrote his magnum opus Paradise Lost to "justify the ways of God to men," as he states near the beginning of book I. On a smaller scale, the same could be said of the poem "On His...

Latest answer posted December 31, 2020, 12:17 pm (UTC)

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On His Blindness

Milton's "one Talent" refers to his literary abilities. It is telling that Milton capitalizes "Talent" in the third line of "On His Blindness"; the word becomes a focal point of the beginning of...

Latest answer posted December 31, 2020, 12:01 pm (UTC)

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On His Blindness

In the octave of the sonnet "On His Blindness," Milton laments that being blind prevents him from serving God as effectively as he might otherwise have done. In the sestet, a personified figure of...

Latest answer posted December 30, 2020, 11:14 am (UTC)

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On His Blindness

In the octave of "On His Blindness," John Milton lays out the argument that is refuted by Patience in the sestet. His bitterness stems from his blindness, particularly the fact that his blindness...

Latest answer posted December 30, 2020, 11:30 am (UTC)

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On His Blindness

It's important to consider the setting of "On His Blindness" in order to convey the full significance of the poem's central conflict. The speaker of this poem is Milton himself, who went completely...

Latest answer posted December 30, 2020, 11:30 am (UTC)

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On His Blindness

In "On His Blindness," the speaker, who represents Milton himself, begins by complaining that his blindness prevents him from serving God as he would wish with his talent. A personified figure of...

Latest answer posted December 30, 2020, 12:06 pm (UTC)

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On His Blindness

"On His Blindness" is one of Milton's best-known lyric poems. It expresses the religious quandary in which Milton's speaker—who is a version of Milton himself—finds himself now that he has gone...

Latest answer posted December 30, 2020, 11:29 am (UTC)

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On His Blindness

Milton's speaker, a version of Milton himself, begins "On His Blindness" by lamenting his blindness, which impedes his ability to read and write. Since writing is his primary talent, this seems to...

Latest answer posted December 30, 2020, 11:33 am (UTC)

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On His Blindness

The meter Milton uses in "On His Blindness" is iambic pentameter, which is the standard meter for sonnets. When determining meter, we first look at how the poet has crafted the flow of syllables....

Latest answer posted December 30, 2020, 11:50 am (UTC)

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On His Blindness

In his poem “On His Blindness,” John Milton's speaker, a version of the poet himself, laments the loss of his sight. By the time Milton went blind at age forty-three, he was already well...

Latest answer posted December 30, 2020, 8:05 pm (UTC)

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On His Blindness

In this poem, Milton's speaker—generally understood to represent Milton himself—is expressing the dilemma with which he is wrestling now that he has gone blind. Milton did not actually title the...

Latest answer posted December 30, 2020, 11:34 am (UTC)

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On His Blindness

"On His Blindness" is one of Milton’s best-known sonnets, and it expresses the poet’s feelings on losing his sight and how this makes him feel about his innate talent. In the poem, Milton's...

Latest answer posted December 30, 2020, 11:23 am (UTC)

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On His Blindness

"On His Blindness" begins with a complaint, which Milton's speaker then amends and reframes. The speaker's "light is spent"—that is, he is blind—and blind man might reflect bitterly on his fate and...

Latest answer posted December 29, 2020, 11:17 am (UTC)

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On His Blindness

The moral message conveyed by the poem "On His Blindness" is that God does not necessarily require our work or the exercise of our talents; it is those people who mostly willingly submit to God's...

Latest answer posted December 29, 2020, 12:42 pm (UTC)

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On His Blindness

The title of the John Milton poem now often referred to as "On His Blindness" was originally called "Sonnet 19" by Milton himself. When first published in a 1673 collection of poems (plainly titled...

Latest answer posted December 29, 2020, 12:30 pm (UTC)

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On His Blindness

Milton likely wrote "On His Blindness" when his own blindness became complete. Scholars believe that this poem therefore was finished sometime in the early 1650s. In "On His Blindness," the speaker...

Latest answer posted December 29, 2020, 12:14 pm (UTC)

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On His Blindness

Milton's poem "On His Blindness" is a sonnet. Although we typically think of there being just two main types of sonnet—the Shakespearean and the Petrarchan—there is also the Miltonic sonnet, named...

Latest answer posted December 29, 2020, 1:30 pm (UTC)

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On His Blindness

Milton is unhappy as the poem opens because his blindness makes it difficult for him to serve God in the way he would like. This is primarily through his writing. As Milton composes his sonnet,...

Latest answer posted December 31, 2020, 11:54 am (UTC)

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Summary