How do textual features combine to convey a theme of the poem?
Milton wrote extensively throughout his life, and studied literature profoundly. His
cunningness and literary techniques were observed in all of his literature. However, at the
prime of his life, his weak eyes gave as his intense work and studies caused his blindness.
As a result of this tragedy, Milton created a sonnet about his blindness. He questioned the
meaning of this tragedy, of the future, and God for his blindness within the sonnet. Even
though his whole life and work involved his eyes, he accepted this eventually. Within
Milton's sonnet about his blindness: figurative language, personification, his intent and
prosody are adopted to convey his questions and heart felt acceptance of his blindness.
Milton uses figurative language to express his grievances and discontent. He
reflects upon his life and "how my light is spent," or the time he had his sight. Milton then
expresses the feeling of the "dark world and wide" of the blind as his introduction to his
questions. He begins to question his writing that only death can take away ("...one talent
which is death to hide.."), "lodged... useless" within him because of his new blindness. As
a result, Milton begins to question God, "Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?" Milton
wonders as to the meaning of his blindness; Does God want him to continue to write, even
with his blindness, or what does God really mean? At first his tone seems harsh, but his
feelings are redirected as he answers his own questions in time. His last question to God,
was answered by himself as he realizes that he cannot blame God for his actions. His
figurative language from the point he begins to question, up to where he begins to answer
his own questions are full of implications of his thought. These implications must be picked
out in order to make sense of the feeling and statement Milton is trying to make.
Furthermore, Milton uses personification to express the importance of words and
values. He personifies "Patience" as if patience were a man who replies for him. Patience
is his reasoning for accepting the fact that he is blind. It is used to introduce the answer
towards his questioning, and as a change or turning point within the sonnet. As in standard
Petrarchian sonnets this change is in the 8-9 line, and a transition between problem and
solution is achieved. The problem was whether or not he should continue to write. Yet, in
line 8 the personification conveys the theme of acceptance through Patience. More or less,
Milton's patience, or a result of his patience, is telling him that God accepts whoever bears
his burdens and has no need of Man's ideas and creations. Furthermore, he states that God
is served by your own means and that there are many ways direct or indirect to serve and
satisfy God. Some serve as priests and popes, "thousands at his bidding... and post o'er
land and ocean without rest." Then there is the rest of the world who take life as it is;
others that "also serve who only stand and wait."
In addition, Milton's prosody and intent on words creates the mood and theme of
the sonnet. Words such as light has the ability to have many meanings and interpretations.
However, within this sonnet it means his life up to his blindness and his sight. "Death to
hide" plays upon the idea that in order to disappear, death is the only way to go. "My soul
more bent to serve therewith my Maker," the feeling of the necessity to serve God.
However, throughout the sonnet, a final idea is set that God is served whether you are the
priest or one "who only stand and wait." He has accepted the fact that he is blind and has
answered his own thoughts on God. Milton believes that he must make a choice to go on
with his writing or "stand and wait," as he must bear the burden and continue or stop.
In conclusion, Milton uses many literary techniques to express himself as he
confronts his feelings with blindness within this sonnet. The uses of figurative language to
introduce the dilemma and to personification for change to the solution of his problems are
effectively used to contrast the mood. His prosody and intention with words creates an
imaginative thought process and detail towards the sonnet. Overall, his techniques combine
to convey the theme of acceptance and realization. Milton has inferred that whether or not
he continues to write depends on himself and serving God.
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