‘Sonnet Xix: When I Consider How My Light Is Spent By John Milton

1238 words - 5 pages

John Milton’s ‘Sonnet XIX: When I Consider How my Light is Spent’, uses the literary techniques of metaphorical representations, irony and satire to convey it’s themes of religion, specifically concerning the use of ones God given talents, and the issue of disability upon and individuals religion to an audience in a political climate enduring through a drastic state of change in structure and values in a cultural revolution that valued a persons by their measure such as a poet through their authorial work, yet still remains significant to audiences today through satirical interpretation.
In Milton’s true style, what the poem says and what the poem means to convey are two drastically ...view middle of the document...

He became blind in 1652 and continued his poetic works through dictation to his daughters. This poem reflects major religious ideas of the time through imbedded biblical knowledge as in lines 3 to 6 where the allusion is to the parable of talents (Mathew 25:14-30), this in a time where religious following was held as so strong a value within society that it caused extreme political actions in a king (Charles I) to be executed (1649) and a new regime without a monarchy to lead the country. This parable in particular addressed how a talent was a measure of weight and therefore Milton’s value as a poet was a measure of his authorial work, a talent much hindered through the loss of sight. This then provokes the issue of how a man who has lost the contribution of his talent is to be valued in society.
• How the poem is conveying this through the use of
Milton addresses the concept of his disability and loss of measure, while incorporating these religious concepts through techniques such as imagery and satire while concurrently employing the stylistic techniques of his epoch such as a unified rhyme scheme, the Petrarchan sonnet form and other devices such as elision, inversion, alliteration and assonance. ‘Sonnet XIX: When I Consider How my Light is Spent’ is a very deliberately structured poem as evident in Milton’s control over the Petrarchan sonnet form, consisting of an octave and a seset, as was the standard form of poetry for his time; and the unified rhyme scheme, present throughout, including the last word of each stanza rhyming with the first word of the next: spent, present, need and speed. Such control demonstrates a rational and deliberate construction of the poem and therefore hints towards its satirical nature. Imagery is clearly evident throughout the poem, prominently at the beginning with the metaphor of “When I consider how my light is spent” referring to the poets eyesight, contrasting with “Ere half my days in this dark world and wide” with the darkness referring to the blindness that Milton now suffers. This sort of imagery casts a darker and more negative tone regarding to the poets increasing blindness and gives the poem’s speaker a perceived pitiful attitude towards his future existence. This pitiful attitude is debated by literary critics as an attitude not present throughout Milton’s work which indicates the poems satirical nature as “If the nineteenth sonnet reveals an abnegation of purpose, a suspension of will, then it surely records emotions transient and uncharacteristic” . Barton argues “Sonnet XIX is a curious poem, full of irony, doubt, and yearning that are only intensified in their reception by the reader’s...

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