A Prose Analysis on Sonnet XIX
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A Prose Analysis on "Sonnet XIX"
John Milton, a poet who was completely blind in 1651 wrote "Sonnet XIX" in 1652; this sonnet is his response to his loss of sight. The theme of the sonnet is the loss and regain of primacy of experience. Milton offers his philosophical view on animism and God. Furthermore, "Sonnet XIX" explores Milton's faith and relationship with God. "Sonnet XIX" suggests that man was created to work and not rest. The supportive details, structure, form, and richness of context embodies the theme. The sonnet goes through two phases: the first phase is Milton's question addressed to God, "Why me?" he asked. Then, the second phase offers a resolution to Milton's dilemma. Moreover, the sonnet acts as a self-poem to Milton, himself.
In the beginning of the sonnet, Milton suggests that his primacy of experience have been deferred when he became blind. The words, "dark", "death", and "useless" (lines 2-4) describe the emotional state of Milton. His blindness created a shrouded clarity within his mind. Line three, "And that one talent which is death to hide" is an allusion to the biblical context of the bible. Line three refers to the story of Matthew XXV, 14-30 where a servant of the lord buried his single talent instead of investing it. At the lord's return, he cast the servant into the "outer darkness" and deprived all he had. Hence, Milton devoted his life in writing; however, his blindness raped his God's gift away. A tremendous cloud casted over him and darkened his reality of life and the world. Like the servant, Milton was flung into the darkness.
Line seven, "Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?" describes the limitations and burdens of a person who has lost his sense of place in life. Obviously, Milton is making a reference to his blindness in relation to line seven. Line seven implies that once the usefulness of a man has diminished, then is man doomed to wasting the rest of his remaining days. In other words, has Milton's handicap made him into an obsolete machine? The quote "To be or not to be,…", (Hamlet, Act 3, Scene1) runs through Milton's mind. Shall he struggle and fight in the webs of darkness, or shall he accept defeat. A sense of "dark clarity" - a sinister paradox occupies Milton's mind. His brain was once clear, set, and on task; but now, it is clouded, unorganized, and fragmented.
However, in the darkness, a new form of clarity arises. "That murmur. Soon replies, God doth not need Either man's work or his own gifts;" (lines 9-10) suggests that the willingness to try is good enough to satisfy God. Milton's realization of the needs of God from man bought him to a higher enlightenment. Therefore, the "dark clarity" renewed Milton's primacy of experience. Like, Kenneth Rexroth, Milton broke away from the "beaten path" and chose his own.
Perhaps, the struggle within the darkness guides the truth out of the abyss. For example, if a person listens to Bach or Mozart, the musical experience is different when the listener's eyes are closed. When the outer eye is shut from the physical world, then the inner eye (the mind) works in the dark. In the darkness, the seeds of imagination grow; therefore, the seeds give the listener a new experience. Again, the primacy of experience is found within the dark. Hence, the mind's eyes see a whole new world differently than the world we live. If the truth shall set a person free, therefore truth is derived from the fundamentals of darkness.
Albert Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world…stimulating progress, or giving birth to evolution." In other words, imagination is the fundamental of darkness. In the mind's eyes, a sense of truth rises from the inky and bottomless pool. Therefore, the pool is the redemption of Milton's soul. There is a coexistence between light and dark. Line fourteen, "They also serve who stand and wait." implies that the people who are patient, focused, and determined will be able to see the light. The word "they" is referred to the virtues of truth.
"Sonnet XIX" contains the following characteristics: it is unique in style, rich in
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Rhyme, John Milton, Sonnets, When I Consider How My Light is Spent
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