On His Blindness

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On His Blindness is one of the best known of the sonnets of John Milton. The last three lines (concluding with "They also serve who only stand and wait.") are particularly well known, though rarely in context.

The poem may have been written as early as 1652, although most scholars believe it was composed sometime between June and October 1655, when Milton's blindness was essentially complete.[1]


When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."


When Milton mentions "that one talent which is death to hide" he is specifically alluding to the parable of the talents in the Gospel of Matthew.[2]


  1. ^ "Milton, John: Sonnet 16 (On His Blindness )". Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database. NYU Langone Medical Center. Retrieved 2012-10-16. 
  2. ^ David V. Urban, "The Talented Mr. Milton: A Parabolic Laborer and His Identity" in Milton Studies, Volume 43, Albert C. Labriola (ed.), Univ of Pittsburgh Press, 2004, ISBN 0-8229-4216-X, pp. 1–18.