On His Blindness Questions and Answers
On His Blindness : Milton has written twenty-four sonnets only. But they are important from so many poets’ points of view.
On His Blindness Questions and Answers
Q 1. Write a note on Milton as a Sonneteer?
Ans. Milton has written twenty-four sonnets only. But they are important from so many poets’ points of view. These sonnets helped him to develop a poetic style which helped him to write such an inspired poem as Paradise Lost.
His sonnets may be divided into four groups. Some of them are controversial, some on women, some personal and others political. But for his sonnets on Divorce-the controversial Sonnets-he is always great as a sonneteer.
Milton followed the classical pattern of the sonnet. He divides his sonnets into an Octave (containing eight lines) and a Sestet (containing six lines). These are further divided into two quatrains and two triplets. The rhyme-scheme followed in Octave is:
That is, the first, the fourth, the fifth and the eighth lines rhyme together whereas the second, the third, the sixth and the seventh lines rhyme together. ‘Spent’, ‘wide’, ‘hide’, bent’, ‘present’, ‘chide’, ‘denied’, ‘prevent’. But the rhyme scheme of the sestet varies. In his sonnet ‘On His Blindness’, the rhyme-scheme of the sestet is:
e d e, c d e.
That is, the ninth and the twelfth, the tenth and the thirteenth and the eleventh and the fourteenth lines rhyme with each other. need, best, state, speed, rest, wait
As regards the theme, his contribution in this field cannot be forgotten. Before him, from the days of Petrarch down to William Shakespeare, LOVE had been the theme of the sonnet. But Milton introduced a change and showed that the sonnet form could be used to present any theme. His “soul-animating strains” deal with other themes than love. The result was that when this form was used by a prolific poet like Wordsworth, he wrote more than five hundred sonnets on various subjects.
Q2. Write a note on the Characteristic features of the sonnet ‘On His Blindness’?
Ans. The most predominating features of this sonnet are autobiographical touch and divine element. As the perfect example of the highest dignity this sonnet is Milton’s greatest contribution to the bewildered and confused humanity. The sonnet gives a divine message of suffering, patience, resignation, dedication and submission to the will of God.
Scott James Remarks: “The sonnet expresses a profoundly sacred religious idea which forms the fundamental basis of our Christianity”.
Thus “On His Blindness” is a song of God. It is itself the highest the in God. It is the inner voice of man who has put his entire self on God’s justice. It shows Milton’s unshakable faith in Divine Justice.
“On His Blindness” is one of the finest sonnets in English poetry. It is an autobiographical sonnet; the sonnet brings before us the personality and character of the blind poet. Milton had become blind at the prime of his life. It created a sense of grief and despair and the poet’s life became a sad story of pathos, grief, despair and darkness. But the poet has a strong faith in God and believes in the benignity and mercy of God. The sonnet embodies the reasoned faith of the poet in the justice and greatness of God.
The sonnet also expresses a Divine Message. “Misfortunes may be a blessing in disguise for the faithful devotees of God. Man should only submit himself to the will of God in the spirit of resignation and pray to God in silence they will be done, lord.”
Q3. Write a note on the structure of the sonnet ‘On His Blindness’?
Ans. The sonnet ‘On His Blindness’ is not on English style. It is on petrarchan style. The entire sonnet can be divided into two parts-the octave and the sestet. The rhyme scheme of the sonnet is abba, a b b a, c d e, a d e. However, there is no break or change of thought after the first eight lines of the octave. The slight change in the middle of the 8th line converts the personal element into a universal appeal. There is no couplet in the end. Thus, the poet maintains a sort of uniformity of thought and expression from the beginning to the end.
“On His Blindness” is an autobiographical sonnet. It also brings before as the religious faith of the poet. The sonnet is a Divine Message to the suffering humanity. Though intensely a personal poem it has universal human appeal. It breathes the spirit of Christian humility and patience. It is sincere in utterance and lofty in tone. It has simplicity of expression, lucidity in style and sublimity and dignity of thought. With its classical structure the sonnet illustrates the pride of English poetry. The sonnet embodies the purity of the Bible and chastity of devotion.
Q.4. Write a note on Milton’s firm faith in God as is reflected in the sonnet ‘On His Blindness’?
Ans. Milton through the sonnet ‘On His Blindness’ gives expression his firm faith in God. At first, he is not sure whether God has acted justly in making him blind at the crucial moment of his life. Milton is not proud of his poetic talent as he knows that he is obliged to God for his oft. But the problem is how he will use that gift when he has lost his gift. He is indeed deeply troubled. Min is a thoroughly religious an. He is God fearing, dutiful, conscientious. He wants to fulfil his ‘s mission if God lets him do so. Through the mouth of Patience, he tells himself that God is just and magnanimous. He has plenty of people ready to serve Him all the time. But He does not make any discrimination between those who are His active servants and those who simply wait an opportunity to serve Him. Both are equal in the eyes of the Lord. Thus, Milton consoles himself.
Q.5. Write a note on Autobiographical element in the sonnet ‘On His Blindness’?
Ans. The sonnet “On His Blindness” was composed in unusual circumstances. Milton had been working very hard for a few years before 1652 (when he became blind). His eyesight had been under great strain for a long time. But he went on with his work ignoring the advice and the repeated warnings on his doctors. When, at last, he lost his eyesight completely, he realized the gravity of his situation. He had been planning and preparing himself from his early youth to write a monumental work in poetry for the welfare of mankind. Now the question before him was how he could put his poetic talent to use. Now it appeared to him that God perhaps did not want him to fulfil his life’s mission. Otherwise, He would not have snatched away the light of his eyes at the very moment when he was thinking in terms of writing that great poem.
The sonnet is an attempt to Analyse and evaluate the new situation of the poet’s life. He has become blind almost in the middle of his career. This dark, terrible world has now become a mere terrible place for the blind man. He also knows that God has sent him into this world with a purpose. He endowed him with a special gift of composing great poetry. The question is if this gift should remain idle with him or it is the will of God that the poet should lie idle of the rest of his life. These and such like questions are struggling within him to find an adequate answer. After much contemplation the poet does find an answer. They also serve those who only stand and wait. That answer, expressed through this sonnet, satisfies not only his own trouble and conscience but will continue to inspire and sustain all troubled souls in similar situations in time to come. Thus, the poet has a universal appeal.
Long Answer Type Questions
Q1. Give a critical estimate of the sonnet ‘On His Blindness’?
Ans. Introduction: On His Blindness is one of the best sonnets of John Milton. It contains one of his first references to his blindness. It makes us sympathies with the poet as we read his agony at his blindness; we are ennobled as we realize his firm faith in God’s sense of justice and mercifulness.
The Title of the Sonnet Apt: The title of the sonnet suggests the theme. But this title was not given by Milton. The theme is his blindness only in appearance. For, though the sonnet begins with the reference to his blindness, it is not the theme.
Main Theme-Removal of Doubt in God’s Sense of Justice: The reference to his blindness is simply the starting point of his doubt regarding the justice of God. But this doubt is removed by an element of faith. Thus, the sonnet seeks to justify the ways of God to men-a pursuit which Milton had throughout his life. It was this pursuit which led him to compose the best English epic, Paradise Lost.
Revolutionary Theme: The theme of the sonnet may be said to be revolutionary. It is so because before Milton, sonnets were written on love. But Milton introduced a revolutionary change, for his sonnets are sometimes personal, at other times, these are political; sometimes controversial, complimentary and topical. On His Blindness is one of his personal sonnets. It reveals the poet’s feelings about his being blind.
Petrarchan Style: The structure of the sonnet is strictly Petrarchan. That is, there is an octave containing eight lines, rhyming:
and a sestet rhyming:
c d e, c d e.
But Milton differs from the classical sonneteers in one respect. The conventional classical sonnet has a definite pause at the end of the octave whereas Milton carries the sense to the sestet.
Parables and Allusions: The sonnet is remarkable for the poet’s brilliant use of the parable of Talents. The allusion to the Parable haunts most of the lines of the Sonnet. The poet uses it to express the doubt in the mind of a God-fearing man. But patient reflection on the problem leads the poet to express his firm faith in God’s Mercy, Goodness and Sense of Justice. He does not need our services. In fact,
His state is kingly, thousands at His bidding speed
And post ov’r land and ocean without rest;
Therefore, the ideal condition for man is to wait for his turn knowing
They also serve those who only stand and wait. Remarkable Features: The sonnet is remarkable for the poet’s sincerity of feeling, clarity of thought, majesty and grandeur of style, sublimity, high seriousness. There is dignity in tone, the sonnet is very musical also. In fact, the style of the sonnet foreshadows his epic style. He has made use of musical words and phrases.
Latinism is visible here as a quality of his style. His style here in this sonnet is also marked by the use of allusions, references and figures of speech. He has beautifully used Metaphor, personification and Rhetorical Question in this sonnet.
To Conclude: Thus “On His Blindness” is certainly one of the best of Milton’s sonnets. If we were required to make a list of the best sonnets of English, it would certainly be one of them.
Q2. Discuss Milton as a poet?
Ans. Milton’s Place: John Milton is the greatest poet in English after Shakespeare. He is noted for his music, learning, imaginative faculty, grandeur, autobiographical note, moral ideas and seriousness.
Milton’s Poetry: Features of Milton’s poetry is for the poet’s sense of beauty. Combined with his devotion to form and coherence, it gave his verse delicacy and gravity. This sense of beauty is most visible in his early poetry L’ Allegro, II Penseroso, Comus, Lycidas and The Sonnets, His sense of beauty is visible in the following lines :
And the milkmaid singeth blithe, And the mower whets his scythe.
Sublime Styles: Milton’s poetry is always noted for its grand style and sublimity. This poetry is never trash or unequal. For he always tried to give his highly dignified verse. In fact, this grandeur and sublimity of his poetry is partly a result of the grandeur and sublimity of the poet’s character.
Role of Imagination: Though Milton had followed classic convictions to a great extract, it did not kill or chill his imaginative faculty, his poetry is highly imaginative throughout. Whether it is a sonnet or an epic, Milton makes full use of imagination. His imagination has made his poetry highly suggestive. He does not describe so much as he suggests. Do we not see this highly suggestive nature of his poetry in the following line?
They also serve who only stand and wait.
Avoidance of Everyday Scenes: It is natural for a suggestive and imaginative poet to avoid the use of everyday scenes and events. His poems seldom describe ordinary objects. The present sonnet deals with the God’s sense of Justice. Man should not have any doubt in it.
God does not, ‘exact day-labour : light denied’.
Whatever Milton wrote is an illustration of his wide learning. Whether we read a sonnet or an epic, Milton’s learning is visible:
And that one talent which is death to hide, Lodged with me useless, …
For Selected Readers: He loads his lines with allusions and references. That is why his poetry is not for ordinary readers. It is only for the selected few. It is not possible to follow him if the reader is not well equipped. Some examples are ‘death to hide’, ‘bear his mild yoke’
Music: Milton’s poetry is deeply saturated in music. His learning included a wide study of music. He had become skillful in handling it so beautifully that there is musical flow even in his prose. Though music is visible everywhere in his poetry, Lycidas is the most remarkable poem in the field of music and verification. The present sonnet also is not less musical, vide
“Soul more bent to serve there with my Maker and present..
Blend of Opposite Ideologies: John Milton’s poetry is a blending of two opposite ideologies. In other words, him the conflicting traditions of the Renaissance and the Reformation, of Hellenism and Hebraism, Humanism and Puritanism are happily harmonized. If he thinks of God, he is a Christian; But when he addresses the Royalist officer, he does not hesitate to call his own house Muses’ Bower though Muses appear in the Greek mythology.
Milton is nothing if not serious. Whatever he writes, he is conscious of a purpose. This purposefulness makes his poetry deeply serious. Even his picture of a mirthful man is without gaiety. It is so because he had respect for poetic art, he could not hide to waste it for a mere amusement.
Delights as well as Instructs: He may delight as he instructs, but eh cannot avoid instruction altogether. What message does he give in the following lines:
God doth not need
Either man’s work, or His own gifts : who best
Bear His mild old yoke, they serve Him best. His state Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed,
And post ov’r land and ocean without rest. They also serve who only stand and wait.
He had full confidence in the powers of a poet. That is why he avoided light or purposeless poetry. He thought that a poet:
…. knows the charm
That call fame on such gentle acts as these.
Obscurity: Learning and suggestiveness make Milton’s poetry serious and imaginative; they also make it difficult for readers. They do not read Milton’s poetry with love as they read Shakespeare’s. They read it as a duty rather than as a pleasure. Absence of everyday themes also contributes to this obscurity.
Human Touch: The critics hold that Milton is lacking in human touches. In his Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained he is concerned primarily with the other worldly people. However, in the present sonnet he talks of “Those who bear his mild yoke.”
Lacks in Humour: Milton’s poetry is lacking in humour, one of the most prominent qualities of English literature. He avoided humour for he wanted to be highly serious.
Insensitive to the Beauty of Nature: Most of the English poets have produced beautiful pictures of nature; but Milton seems to be insensitive to the beauty of nature. Even where he introduces scenes of nature, they are based on his study and not on the observation of nature.
Remarkable Features: Milton ranks very high among the poets of England. His sense of beauty, grand style, sublimity, imaginativeness, wide learning, music and seriousness have made his poetry so great that he is second to none but to Shakespeare. To quote Hazlitt, “The quantity of art in him shows the strength of his genius: the weight of his intellectual obligations would have oppressed any other writer. Milton’s learning has the effect on intuition. He describes objects, of which he could only have read in books, with the vividness of actual observation. His imagination has the force of nature. He makes words tell as pictures.”
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