An Explication of John Milton's "When I Consider How My Light is Spent"
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and the present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
"Doth God exact day-labor, 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; 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:
They also serve who only stand and wait."
In "When I Consider How My Light is Spent", John Milton employs a rhyme pattern, rhythm, meter, Biblical references, and the diction of archaic language to successfully complete this Petrarchan sonnet. The speaker and audience are obvious, and unique from other poems. All of these elements work together as the speaker reflects in the octet how the one who took away his light now expects labor from him; the sestet is the Lord's kind answer to his servant.
The structure of Milton's poem is an octet followed by a sestet. Because of this structure, the number of lines in the poem, and the content of those lines, it is a sonnet and more specifically a Petrarchan sonnet. The one structural difference lies in the division of the octet from the sestet, for the speaker changes here as well.
This poem is unique in its speaker-audience relationship. The first eight lines are spoken by the one who raises the issue of the doubts that cloud his faith. Following these lines, the audience from the octet becomes the speaker of the sestet, who attempts to kindly give the doubting man peace. Because of the contents of the octet, many are led to believe that the speaker was Milton himself, for just as he lost his eyesight shortly before this poem was penned, so...