This is a Petrarchan sonnet, of iambic pentameter and yet again simple diction, full and half-rhyme, enjambment and contraction. Milton has used his extensive knowledge of scripture to create a deeply personal poem, and gently guide himself and the reader or listener from an intense loss through to understanding and gain.
The main themes of this poem are Milton's exploration of his feeling, fears and doubts regarding his failed sight, his rationalisation of this fear by seeking solutions in his faith.
The tone of the poem is one of contrasting darkness and light, `my light is spent' and spending half of his life `in this dark world and wide', using alliteration and contrast to give understanding to his affliction, but Milton is also indicating a biblical reference to the `Talent'; a unit of currency in those times, and used several by Jesus as a symbolic level of the meaning of forgiveness. The ending part of this line `which is death to hide', Milton is referring to the Resurrection and that if one hides one's Talent or the gift of the forgiveness and / or compassion, and not extend it to others, will this will this be extended to you at the End of Days?
(18.23: Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
18:24: And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
18:25: But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
18.26: The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have
patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
18:27: Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
18.28: But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
18:29: And his feliowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
18:30: And he would not. but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
18:31: So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
18:32: Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, 0 thou wicked
servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
18:33: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
18:34: And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
18:35: So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.)
The fourth line does refer to his useless eyes, though this handicap serves for Milton to be more resolute to do more, `though my soul bent' and goes on into the fifth `To serve therewith my Maker, and present My true account, lest he returning chide; ` the judgement of Christ finds him wanting, his life's account shows no profit, by not extending forgiveness, and is rebuked.
`Doth God exact day-labour, light deny'd? I fondly ask: ` Here Milton uses the word 'fondly' rather than the word `foolishly', as if his question was not thought through, also the line is a similar question posed to Jesus by his disciples as they left the temple regarding why this man was blind.
9:1: And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
9.2: And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his
parents, that he was born blind?
9:3: Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.'
Milton's question is similar to that of the disciples, asking if his blindness was a daily wage for his labours from God, and his answer from The Inner Guide, the Comforter or, that which Milton refers to as Patience, speaks to him that God does not require what man thinks of as important. That his blindness is' but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.'
Milton uses the words `mild' and 'yoke' as another reference to Jesus and again denotes Milton's deeper understanding of Christ's gentle disposition joined in the union of servitude towards mankind and his invitation to join in the world's salvation.
11:29: Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
11:30: For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
`Thousands bidding speed' appears to be a reference to the faithful awaiting Christ's Second Coming and their duty to `Post o'er land and ocean without rest': to proclaim that, `They also serve who stand and wait' appears to indicate that they who do, are also doing God's Will.
This poem is about re-evaluating after change and contains a subject matter which is difficult. He turns this tension into the positive by seeking for himself a truth or reason from blindness. By exploring his own emotional response to his future, in seeking comfort from the scripture regarding the role that blind people have served in the spreading of the Word of God. Milton appears to understanding that it is not what this world perceives a person to be or does which establishes their value to God, but the very fact that they serve as part of God's creation which is Loved, and they need to love in a similar fashion.