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john-miltonLeland Ryken writes that John Milton’s “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent” is to him “the greatest sonnet in the English language.” During the middle phase of Milton’s life (1640-1660) he focused on supporting the Puritan cause and largely set aside his poetic vocation. By 1654, at the age of 55, he had gone completely blind, and probably composed this sonnet around this time.

When I Consider How My Light Is Spent

by John Milton

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 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.”

 

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