John Milton's contemplative "Sonnet XIX" reveals the idea of man in adversity coming to terms with fate. Milton reflects upon the condition of his own soul in physical blindness through his ideas of service, duty, and talent in order to explore his relationship with God and his art: writing. Milton's use of diction and structure provide clues to the sonnet's interpretation and help resolve the thematic dilemma presented. The sonnet's imagery connotes multiple meanings. An examination of Milton's allusions to biblical verse and historical parallels help give important insight towards understanding the sonnet.
Milton divides this sonnet into two structural parts of iambic pentameter in the Petrarchan style. The octave is concerned with Milton's contemplative state which flows from, "When I consider how my light is spent" (line 1). Milton links the words spent, light, death, and soul through the heavy stress of their syllables. According to Steven Wigler, the egocentric tone of the octave is revealed in the use of the pronouns I, me, and my, which appear eight times in the first eight lines (Wigler 156). Milton's obsessive concern with whether he will be expected to fulfill the demands of his service builds until the first part ends with his question, "Doth God exact day-labor, light denied," (line 7) followed by, "I fondly ask but Patience to prevent"(line 8). Milton has capitalized the word patience. He is deifying the word to help transform the tone in the sestet. Milton foreshadows a resolution by associating the qualities of patience with God. Milton seems consumed with emphasizing his serious intention and concern for himself as a writer in the octave, but later balances ...
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...necessarily imply extinguished light. It can simultaneously represent the burning of light in the present. Milton has left his reader with a sense of hope.
Honigmann, E.A.J. "Sonnet XIX." Milton's Sonnets. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1966. 169-76.
Nardo, Anna K. Milton's Sonnets & the Ideal Community. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1979. 145-51.
Parker, William R. Milton: A Biography. Vol. 1. London: Oxford UP, 1968. 2 vols. 469- 72.
Stringer, Gary A. "Milton's 'Thorn in the Flesh': Pauline Didacticism in Sonnet XIX." Milton Studies 10 (1977): 141-54.
Wigler, Steven."Outrageous Noise and the Sovereign Voice: Satan, Sin, and Syntax in Sonnet XIX and Book VI of Paradise Lost." Milton Studies 10 (1977): 155-65.
Wilcox, Joel F. "'Spending the Light:' Milton and Homer's Light of Hope." Milton Quarterly. 18.3 (1984): 77-8.
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