On His Blindness by John Milton is a classic poem that demonstrates the composer’s perfect understanding of the sonnet form and his ability to utilise it in order to celebrate the idea of surrender to God’s will. The poem conveys Milton’s confusion, frustration and eventual understanding of God’s decision to deny him use of his talent. Although the poem follows the rigid sonnet structure, Milton’s ability to manipulate this allowed him to truly express the inner turmoil caused by his deteriorating sight and consequently the tension this causes in his relationship with God. ‘”Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?” I fondly ask’ is the source of the tension in the octet as Milton foolishly question’s God’s decision – conveying his increasing spiritual darkness and wavering faith in God’s plan for him. Milton employs complex language and sentence structure to demonstrate his inability to understand God’s decision to take away his eyesight further reflecting his confusion and frustration. The use of left branching sentences creates a slow pace that allows for Milton to convey his hesitancy with clauses being the product of his increasingly cluttered thoughts. As the sonnet moves from uncertain-resistance in the octet to certain-obedience in the sestet responders are able to observe Milton as he reaches a point of spiritual resolution. This follows as his faith in God is strengthened and he comes to the conclusion that ‘“God doth need either man’s work or his own gifts.” The faster pace of the sestet reflects his certainty about his faith in God while the use of enjambment produces a fluidity that was absent in the octet further reflecting his growing spiritual insight. This interaction of techniques conveys Milton’s ultimate acceptance of God’s decision to deny him use of his talents thus reflecting the uncertainty he has overcome in order to reach this final conclusion.
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