John Milton, “On His Blindness” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

I’ve enjoyed posting poetry series themed around the Christian year in the past couple of years (see “Poetry for Lent” and “Poetry for Easter“). I will continue that with a series called “Poetry for Ordinary Time.” Ordinary time includes two sections of the church year between Christmastide and Lent and Easter and Advent. The word “ordinary” here derives from the word ordinal by which the weeks are counted. Still, ordinary time does serve an opportunity to embrace the ordinary spaces and places of our lives, and the themes of the poems will express this.

Here is John Milton’s poem “When I consider how my light is spent” from The Complete Poems. John Milton was a 17th century poet and essayist, who is widely considered to be one of the greatest writers in the English language. This poem traces his slow decline into physical blindness that also leads the poet to engage with suffering and divine providence.

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
Lodg’d 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-labour, 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.”

Previous poems in this series:

3 thoughts on “John Milton, “On His Blindness” [Poetry for Ordinary Time]

  1. I love this poem by Milton! Thanks for including it! God is praised as we lay our gifts and talents at His feet to use in whatever way He desires. We cannot trust in our own gifts, but only in the Lord Who can use them however He chooses. We humbly wait on His way

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