Sunday, December 09, 2007

Happy 399th birthday, John Milton!

Today is the birthday of one of the great poets of our language. Although his epic Paradise Lost is said to be Milton's master work, here's a little poem that's one of my favorites. It doesn't take an entire semester to read, either!

Sonnet XIX
John Milton
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
Lodged 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."

Does your reading of the poem change if I tell you that Milton wrote this sonnet after losing his vision? Oh, and here's something fun--Milton's true 399th will be on December 21, due to a calendrical complication known as Gregorian Calendar Reform. Great Britain essentially skipped eleven days in 1752, with Wednesday, September 2nd being immediately followed by Thursday, September 14th.


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