Poetry is really unique because there is a lot of meaning and symbolism in every poem. It is like a picture. Some pictures can say a thousand words and some poems can give a thousand meanings. In some poems it can be about the hardships in everyone’s lives or the happy things in life. In other poems it can be just about the things the author feels. Such is the case in John Milton’s poem “When I Consider how my light is spent”. The poem seems to be about Milton, however it has more meaning and can be reflected onto anyone. The poem seems to be talking about vision using the word “light”.
However, it doesn’t directly say that it is about vision. Therefore, having some knowledge about Milton can provide some aid in figuring out what the poem is trying to express. Being familiar with John Milton’s work, one will know that the author went blind, but still didn’t give up on writing. In fact some of his best work came after he was blind. So the poem can relate either to Milton’s struggle or anyone else’s. The title of the poem can suggest that Milton looks back on how he spent his life while he saw light, in other words, while he still possessed his sight.
When Milton states “Ere half my days in this dark world and wide”(2), this shows that he is actually talking about his current state. He has been living in darkness and cannot see light. When Milton says, “And that one talent which is death to hide Lodged with me useless”(3-4), He can be referring to the “talent” as some form as a skill. However, this word can have more than one meaning. Being familiar with biblical scripture will show that in the book of Matthew, there is a parable which talks about a”talent” as a currency.
A lord gives talents to his servants in order for them to use those talents and get more out of them. Therefore, Milton is comparing the talent in the parable to his own talent, meaning that he can’t do as much as he wants for his Lord, which he later supports with “though my soul more bent To serve therewith my maker, and present my true account”(5-6). Moreover, when the speaker says, “Doth God exact day-labor, light denied? “(7), he is expressing his concern about his current state. He wonders if God will still require him to labor.
One can see that the tone of this line shows a little fear, which can suggest that the speaker is a man of faith and fears that God requires “day-labor”, or works to satisfy him, even without sight. With this in mind, it can shows that God requires for people to still labor for him even though they possess no sight, which makes God look unrighteous. However, this is where patience soon replies to the speaker, “God doth not need Either man’s work or His own gifts”(10). This line shows that God is not some kind of slave owner, but that he is perfect and does not need labor nor gifts from anyone.
Patience now plays an important role in helping the speaker come to realize that God is merciful and will not punish the speaker because he did not labor for God. Furthermore, patience also mentions, “His state is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed”(12), which suggests that God already has thousands of servants who have the power and light to serve him. With referring to God as “kingly”, this shows that God is not simply a lord, like it states in the parable of the lord in Matthew, but he is a righteous king who has mercy on those who can not labor for him because of the loss of light.
In addition, the word “yoke” can show some unique meaning on how God chooses his servants. A yoke is a tool used on farm animals. It helps direct them to their work. Here patience states that,”Who best bear His mild yoke, they serve him best”(11). Using the word mild shows that Gods yoke doesn’t make people his personal slaves but rather shows that those people he selects, are themselves submitting to him and letting God guide and direct them.
In conclusion, the speaker has much worry about displeasing the lord. Being blind pretty much means to be dead, because without sight, one can only do so much. Furthermore, this poem can apply to anyone and not just Milton. The poem also gives a great message about God. God is not a mere lord, but the king of the earth, he has plenty of servants do do his bidding. Therefore, he is merciful on those who have a physical disability and those who have obstructions in their path of serving him.