Poetry: Milton – When I consider how my light is spent

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.”

John Milton, Sonnet 19

By 1660, John Milton was completely blind. He had begun to go blind nearly a decade before when he was in his early forties. As it would be for anyone, his progressive loss of a sense proved distressing. Worse of all for Milton, he made his living through writing and translating. How was he to properly use his talent that God had given him if he could not see?

So, Milton ponders his life, considering that the light of his eyes is now spent. Is he now useless to God and man? He is left in darkness, his gifts buried in dark death behind his closing eyes. And yet, he is not done! No, he prays, dear Lord, I have more to write for You! His soul is “bent” towards serving his “Maker.” Yes, he fears that the Lord will be angry with him for not using his gift. Yet, Milton does not despair. Instead, he knows that God gives us strength when we have none. His power is made perfect in weakness. God does not need our works, our money, our talents. But He gives them to us that we might glorify Him and serve His people. This is a mild yoke, a light burden, one that gives light and life even when we have none.

Now he, and we, have hope. Milton is patient, thus preventing that “murmur,” those false thoughts and dark temptations to lead him to despair. Instead, he listens for that quiet voice of comfort: It is not your works God needs, though we are to serve Him. He loves you, and those who “serve him best” are those that ” bear his mild yoke.” This state in service to our king has made us co-heirs with Christ. Yes, Milton could no longer be one to travel across the land to serve God and country. He had to be still, and wait. Milton was patient and found comfort in the words of God spoken though he could not see them, and now he would stand ready, after all he had done, and wait on the Lord.

Yes, Milton, like some other poets of old, wrote some of his best work in these last years of his life. Works such as Paradise Lost and some of his best poems were written long after the light had left his eyes. His life is an inspiration, his works a joy and comfort. He did not give in to despair but chose to cling to the Light of Christ. I consider now how I spend my own life. While God does not need my gifts, I can gladly give them, using my own talent to His glory. Yes, I, too, can stand and wait, listening with patience to God’s word to serve Him. After all, His “yoke is easy and [His] burden is light.”

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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