The Philosophy of Milton in When I Consider how my Light is Spent and Borges in Poema de los dones
Jorge Luis Borges espoused a philosophy that "all men are each other" (Stabb 52). His literature frequents the theme by finding the repetition of events that transpire regardless of the person involved. His becoming blind coincided with his appointment as Director of the National Library of Argentina, and he understood this "splendid irony of God" as another wrinkle in the circular repetition of existence. John Milton's formal use of the Petrarchan sonnet provides a balanced structure for him to blend his experience with the general human experience, but his effort promotes an inward, self-reflective goal of trying to find God's mandate when he becomes blind. While Borges universalizes his blindness in order to convey his idea of transindividuality in "Poema de los dones" ("Poem of the Gifts"), Milton responds to the permanence of his night by ultimately resigning to a justified ascetism, patience, and contemplation as he awaits God's command in "When I Consider how my Light is Spent."
A graceful tug of war between continuity and schism, a changing fusion of the personal and the universal, and a tone of resignation direct Milton to the difficult acceptance of serving God by standing and waiting. Continuity within a set of lines shapes the theme by urging the poet to continue his faith in God. Contrasts in images and audiences define the differences between the soul-seeking author and the well-meaning orator.
Petrarchan sonnets usually invite the poet to propose a series of distinct statements from line to line. Milton deviates from the anticipated sentence divisions by merging one idea within more than one line ("To serve therewith my Maker, and present/ My true account...") (Miller 22). By employing the poise of prose within the suaveness of poetry, Milton engages the continuity of style but the flow of poetic form, and therefore, poetic rhyme. Further example of continuity appears in the rhyme characteristic of a Petrarchan sonnet ("My true account, lest he returning chide;/ 'Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?'"). Finally, the poem consists of one sentence; therefore, the end thought unifies itself with its preceding comments, creating a smooth reading of one expression. Continuity, inherent in the rhyme and in the syntax of the poetry (22), represents the exigency of Milton's personal continuity, which entails his continued devotion to God but also demands a persistency of survival within that defeated environment of blindness. Division of the two parts of a Petrarchan sonnet and of the two audiences challenge the element of continuity. Milton engenders the most specific contrast; that of the poet attempting to understand his blindness, and then the poet attempting to understand his obligations before God; by referring to the popular application of Petrarchan form, which provides a forum for the poet...