On His Blindness by John Milton – Summary & Critical Analysis

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On His Blindness by John Milton is a renowned sonnet. It has an autobiographical touch. Milton expresses his feelings as a blind man. It is interesting to note that Milton did not write this poem with the title: On His Blindness. The poem first came out with the title – “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent”—in Milton’s 1673 Poems. Thomas Newton gave the poem its presently famous title – “On His Blindness” – in the 1761 edition of Milton’s poetry.

The University of the Punjab has prescribed On His Blindness by John Milton for the students of BA/ADA English Literature. The University also included it in the syllabus of BS English Literature in Semester II. On His Blindness by John Milton – Summary Analysis Questions will provide the students with quality material on this poem.

The Poet

John Milton is by far the most celebrated English poet. His renown rests on his epic entitled Paradise Lost. He was born on December 9, 1608, in London. Milton’s was the age of political upheaval and religious debate in England. Milton, in his childhood, received tuition from Thomas Young, a Scottish Presbyterian. Young introduced young Milton to religious radicalism which is visible in many of the poet’s works. Milton was also against episcopacy that empowered the Bishop as a member of the clergy to intervene in the affairs of religious institutions. He had a Christian Humanist approach. His prose works during the Civil War reflect his ideas on the matter. He wrote many pamphlets decrying monarchy. In the later period of his life, Milton lost his eyesight. On His Blindness by John Milton refers to his feelings after the loss of his eyesight. Milton died on November 8, 1674.

Text of the Poem On His Blindness by John Milton

On His Blindness by John Milton – Summary & Critical Analysis

Summary of the Poem On His Blindness by John Milton

The poem, On His Blindness by John Milton, is an autobiographical sonnet. In this poem, the poet narrates his feelings after he lost his eyesight. Milton became blind at the age of forty-three in 1642. The sonnet, On His Blindness, is intimately connected to this phase of the poet’s life.

Poet’s Disappointment at the Loss of His Eyesight

With mixed feelings of regret and surprise, the poet thinks about how he lost his eyesight at the mid-point of his life. He believes that he has not lived half his life when he has had to bear this loss. He refers to his talent for poetry which lies within him useless. It is due to his blindness that he cannot write poetry in the praise of his Creator. Nor can he describe adequately to his Creator the reason for his inability to utilize his talent. Milton is disappointed for not being able to serve God through his poetry. He fears that God should reproach him for not using his talent and ask him to go away.

Poet’s Question of God and the Reply of Patience

The poet intends to ask God in a naïve manner if He expects the same labour from a blind man as He does from a man with eyesight. But, Patience advises the poet against the idea of asking such a question. Patience tells the poet that God does not need his poetry. Nor does his blessing depend upon man’s service to God. He wants man to follow His commands. As far as His service is concerned, He has countless angels at his beck and call. Of these countless angels, some are busy serving Him while others are waiting for their turn. Patience believes that even those in the state of wait are serving God.

Critical Analysis of the Poem On His Blindness by John Milton

On His Blindness by John Milton is a sonnet. It consists of fourteen lines. Milton has employed iambic pentameter with rhyme scheme ABBA ABBA CDE CDE.

Major Themes

The poem revolves around the themes of realization of one’s potential, submission to the will of God, and spiritual satisfaction in resignation.

Milton’s Expression of Regret

The poem begins with Milton’s expression of regret at the loss of his eyesight. He thinks that he has not yet lived half his life when he has had to suffer this loss. He has lost one of God’s most precious gifts to man.

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,

Milton’s Realization of His Talent & Fear of God

He realizes that his only talent is poetry by which he can serve God. Owing to his blindness, he feels that his talent is lying at waste in him. The poet fears that his hiding this talent may displease God, and He might admonish the poet for it on the Day of Judgment. Milton feels helpless despite his deep desire to serve God through his poetry.

And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,

Milton’s Desire to Question God and the Response of Patience

Milton, in his naivety, wants to ask God if He demands the same level of submission of a blind man as He does of a person with eyesight. But Patience replies in a way that the poet suppresses the complaint in his heart. It tells the poet that God does not need for his service a person’s work or ability.

“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts:

What God needs from a Man?

Patience tells the poet that God has countless worshippers in the form of His angels. Many of them are busy serving Him, and there is an equal number of those waiting to be called for service. As far as the duty of man is concerned, God wants him to abide by the mild orders of his Creator.

…………………………………………………………………..who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:

Conclusion – Submission  to the Will of God

The poem ends with a sense of submission to the will of God. The poet concludes the poem with a note of optimism that even those who wait to serve God are virtuous in the eyes of God.

They also serve who only stand and wait.

Autobiographical Element

In this poem, the poet laments his loss of eyesight. Milton lost his eyesight at the of forty-three in 1642. He was an ambitious poet who wanted to compose an epic. After he lost his eyesight, he felt that his blindness impeded his ambition. He fears that his inability to use his talent for poetry should receive censure from God. However, he consoles himself with the idea that it is the will of God to keep the poet waiting for an opportunity to serve Him. It is important to note that Milton later composed one of the finest epics in English literature, Paradise Lost. In his epic, he did his best to serve God with his endeavour to ‘justify the ways of God to men.’

Allusion in the Poem On His Blindness by John Milton

In literary works, we sometimes find the authors referring to a person, an event, or another text in an indirect or implied way. It is called allusion. In the poem, On His Blindness by John Milton, we find an allusion to the Parable of Talents in the Gospel of Matthew.

Parable of Talents

A master, who intended to go on a journey, entrusted his wealth to his servants. He gave one of his servants five talents. To another, he gave two talents. There was a servant to whom he gave only one talent. Talent was a monetary unit.

How the Servants Used the Talents?

The servants who received five and two talents doubled them by investing them in business. However, the servant with only one talent hid his talent in the ground.

Master’s Reaction to His Servants

On his return, the master asked the servants to settle their accounts with him. He expressed pleasure at the effort of the servants who had doubled their talents. But, he was displeased with the one that hid his talent and reaped no profit with it.

Milton’s Comparison with the Third Servant

In this poem, Milton compares himself with the third servant who did not use his talent to benefit his master. Milton thinks that he could not serve God with his talent for poetry. Therefore, he fears the displeasure of his master.

Personification in the Poem On His Blindness by John Milton

Personification is a literary device. It means the presentation of an abstract idea or non-living entity with human qualities. It is a kind of metaphor. Milton, in this poem, personifies Patience. When the poet expresses his grief and regrets at the loss of his eyesight, Patience offers a consoling argument. Patience tells the poet that it is not his work or gifts that God needs. Instead, it is his good intention that matters.


We may conclude by saying that On His Blindness by John Milton is an excellent poem with its superb thematic and poetic structure. The poet has employed different poetic devices such as allusion and personification in this poem. Its diction is simple and comprehensible.

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