Saturday, July 30, 2016

John Milton’s poem “On His Blindness”
John Milton’s poem “On His Blindness” is an autobiographical sonnet in which Milton meditates on his own loss of sight. For most of his life, Milton had been able to see perfectly, but his late-night reading and writing on behalf of the government of the short-lived English Republic, in which he held a very prominent position, helped ruin his eyesight. This sonnet—written in the “Petrarchan” rhyme scheme associated with the fourteenth-century Italian poet Francesco Petrarca—is divided into an eight-line “octave” and a six-line “sestet.” The octave rhymes a/b/b/a/a/b/b/a. The sestet rhymes c/d/e/c/d/e. The sonnet is therefore a typical Petrarchan sonnet in form, but in subject matter, the poem departs from the topics usually associated with Petrarchan poems. Petrarch (the English version of Petrarca’s name) was most famous for writing about love; Milton departs from that conventional topic to deal with a very practical, very physical problem, but a problem with many broader spiritual implications.
By beginning line one with the word “When," Milton immediately signals that he is opening with a subordinate clause (a dependent clause) that introduces the main idea to follow. Beginning the poem this way creates a certain suspense; the main idea is postponed so that we have to continue reading in anticipation of its eventual arrival. Shakespeare also often used this kind of sentence pattern in constructing his own sonnets. By opening with a dependent clause, Milton heightens our sense of anticipation by delaying the key statement.
The word “consider” implies careful, rational thought rather than purely emotional reaction. Here and throughout the poem, the speaker uses his reason, which Renaissance Christians considered one of the greatest gifts that God had bestowed upon human beings. The ability of humans to reason, they believed, linked them to God and distinguished them from animals. The speaker feels that his “light” is “spent” (extinguished) in several senses of the word “light.” This word clearly alludes, at least eventually, to the speaker’s loss of sight, but "light" may also suggest one’s intelligence. The opening line may at first seem to mean “When I think about how I have used my intelligence,” but it soon comes to mean “When I ponder how my ability to see has become extinguished.” This latter meaning is, of course, foreshadowed by the poem’s title.
The idea of losing one’s sight is obviously a deeply troubling one. The blind person is suddenly at risk in all kinds of ways. The speaker in the poem feels vulnerable; he can no longer literally see his own way or easily protect himself from dangers. The special tragedy of this particular speaker is that he has lost his sight at an unusually early stage of life. Rather than becoming blind when elderly, he has become blind in middle age. He now inhabits a world that seems “dark” (2) in at least two senses: it is no longer physically visible, and it is a world full of sin and spiritual darkness. The world, moreover, is not only dark but also “wide”: the speaker will somehow have to navigate, both literally and figuratively, in a world which, because of its width or breadth, will prose many dangers. If the speaker were confined to a single dark room, he might quickly and easily learn his way around. Instead, he will have to make his way through a “world” that is both “dark” and “wide” and thus especially challenging.
In line three, the speaker refers to “one talent,” thereby alluding to the famous passage in the Bible (Matthew 25:14-30) in which a master gives three servants different numbers of “talents” (coins) before he departs. The servant given five talents invests them wisely and earns five in return, which he gives to his master when the master reappears. Similarly, the same happens with the servant given two talents. However, the servant given one talent, mistrustful of his master, buries that talent so that he will risk losing...

First Disobedience john Milton.

Milton opens Paradise Lost by formally declaring his poem’s subject: humankind’s first act of disobedience toward God, and the consequences that followed from it. The act is Adam and Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, as told in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. In the first line, Milton refers to the outcome of Adam and Eve’s sin as the “fruit” of the forbidden tree, punning on the actual apple and the figurative fruits of their actions. Milton asserts that this original sin brought death to human beings for the first time, causing us to lose our home in paradise until Jesus comes to restore humankind to its former position of purity.
Milton’s speaker invokes the muse, a mystical source of poetic inspiration, to sing about these subjects through him, but he makes it clear that he refers to a different muse from the muses who traditionally inspired classical poets by specifying that his muse inspired Moses to receive the Ten Commandments and write Genesis. Milton’s muse is the Holy Spirit, which inspired the Christian Bible, not one of the nine classical muses who reside on Mount Helicon—the “Aonian mount” of I.15. He says that his poem, like his muse, will fly above those of the Classical poets and accomplish things never attempted before, because his source of inspiration is greater than theirs. Then he invokes the Holy Spirit, asking it to fill him with knowledge of the beginning of the world, because the Holy Spirit was the active force in creating the universe.
Milton’s speaker announces that he wants to be inspired with this sacred knowledge because he wants to show his fellow man that the fall of humankind into sin and death was part of God’s greater plan, and that God’s plan is justified.


Paradise Lost: The First Book
  THE ARGUMENT.—This First Book proposes, first in brief, the whole subject—Man’s disobedience, and the loss thereupon of Paradise, wherein he was placed: then touches the prime cause of his fall—the Serpent, or rather Satan in the Serpent; who, revolting from God, and drawing to his side many legions of Angels, was, by the command of God, driven out of Heaven, with all his crew, into the great Deep. Which action passed over, the Poem hastes into the midst of things; presenting Satan, with his Angels, now fallen into Hell—described here not in the Centre (for heaven and earth may be supposed as yet not made, certainly not yet accursed), but in a place of utter darkness, fitliest called Chaos. Here Satan, with his Angels lying on the burning lake, thunderstruck and astonished after a certain space recovers, as from confusion; calls up him who, next in order and dignity, lay by him: they confer of their miserable fall. Satan awakens all his legions, who lay till then in the same manner confounded. They rise: their numbers; array of battle; their chief leaders named, according to the idols known afterwards in Canaan and the countries adjoining. To these Satan directs his speech; comforts them with hope yet of regaining Heaven; but tells them, lastly, of a new world and new kind of creature to be created, according to an ancient prophecy, or report, in Heaven—for that Angels were long before this visible creation was the opinion of many ancient Fathers. To find out the truth of this prophecy, and what to determine thereon, he refers to a full council. What his associates thence attempt. Pandemonium, the palace of Satan, rises, suddenly built out of the Deep: the infernal Peers there sit in council.

OF MAN’S first disobedience, and the fruit
Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste
Brought death into the World, and all our woe,
With loss of Eden, till one greater Man
Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,        5
Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top
Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire
That Shepherd who first taught the chosen seed
In the beginning how the heavens and earth
Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill        10
Delight thee more, and Siloa’s brook that flowed
Fast by the oracle of God, I thence
Invoke thy aid to my adventrous song,
That with no middle flight intends to soar
Above the Aonian mount, while it pursues        15
Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
And chiefly Thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer
Before all temples the upright heart and pure,
Instruct me, for Thou know’st; Thou from the first
Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,        20
Dove-like sat’st brooding on the vast Abyss,
And mad’st it pregnant: what in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That, to the highth of this great argument,
I may assert Eternal Providence,        25
And justify the ways of God to men
Song: Sweetest love, I do not go

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Sweetest love, I do not go, 
         For weariness of thee, 
Nor in hope the world can show 
         A fitter love for me; 
                But since that I 
Must die at last, 'tis best 
To use myself in jest 
         Thus by feign'd deaths to die. 

Yesternight the sun went hence, 
         And yet is here today; 
He hath no desire nor sense, 
         Nor half so short a way: 
                Then fear not me, 
But believe that I shall make 
Speedier journeys, since I take 
         More wings and spurs than he. 

O how feeble is man's power, 
         That if good fortune fall, 
Cannot add another hour, 
         Nor a lost hour recall! 
                But come bad chance, 
And we join to'it our strength, 
And we teach it art and length, 
         Itself o'er us to'advance. 

When thou sigh'st, thou sigh'st not wind, 
         But sigh'st my soul away; 
When thou weep'st, unkindly kind, 
         My life's blood doth decay. 
                It cannot be 
That thou lov'st me, as thou say'st, 
If in thine my life thou waste, 
         That art the best of me. 

Let not thy divining heart 
         Forethink me any ill; 
Destiny may take thy part, 
         And may thy fears fulfil; 
                But think that we 
Are but turn'd aside to sleep; 
They who one another keep 
         Alive, ne'er parted be.

John Donne: Poems Summary and Analysis of "Song: Sweetest love, I do not go"

The poet tells his beloved that he is not leaving because he is tired of the relationship—instead, he must go as a duty. After all, the sun departs each night but returns every morning, and he has a much shorter distance to travel. The third stanza suggests that his duty to leave is unstoppable; man’s power is so feeble that good fortune cannot lengthen his life, while bad fortune will shorten it. Indeed, fighting bad fortune only shares one’s strength with it. As the beloved sighs and cries, the lover complains that if he is really within her, she is the one letting him go because he is part of her tears and breath. He asks her not to fear any evil that may befall him while he is gone, and besides, they keep each other alive in their hearts and therefore are never truly parted.

Analysis

“Sweetest love” is a lyric made up of five stanzas each with the same rhyme scheme (ababcddc). Each stanza develops an aspect of the problem of separation from one’s beloved.
In the first stanza the lover wards off any fear of a weakened love on his part. He does not leave “for weariness” of the beloved (line 2), nor does he go looking for a “fitter love” for himself (line 4). He instead compares his departure to death, saying that since he “Must die at last” (line 5), it is better for him to practice dying by “feign’d deaths” (line 8), those short times when he is separated from his love. Thus, he turns her fears about losing him into an assurance that she is the very source of his existence; when he is not with her, it is like being dead.
In the second stanza, Donne uses the sun as a metaphor for his fidelity and desire to return. He compares his leaving to the sun’s setting “Yesternight” (line 9). It left darkness behind, “yet is here today” (line 10). If the sun can return each day, despite its lengthy journey around the world, then the beloved can trust that the lover will return since his journey is shorter (line 12). Besides, he will make “speedier journeys” since he has more reason to go and return than does the sun (lines 15-16).
In the third stanza, the poet turns to contemplating larger problems beyond merely being separated from a loved one. He notes how “feeble is man’s power” (line 17) that one is unable to add more time to his life during periods of “good fortune” (line 18). Ironically, the poet notes, we instead add “our strength” (line 22) to misfortune and “teach it art and length” (line 23), thereby giving bad situations power over our lives. We are so powerless that even the power we have turns against us in bad fortune. Perhaps the suggestion here is that the lover has no choice but to go, not having enough strength to overcome fate.
This stanza also serves as a turning point in the song. The two prior stanzas are assurances that the lover will return quickly and faithfully. The final two stanzas focus on the harms his beloved may cause or fear.
“When thou sigh'st, thou sigh'st not wind,/But sigh'st my soul away” he says in the first line of the fourth stanza. The beloved’s expressions of despair cause harm to her lover, he argues, because he is so much a part of her that he is in her breath. He may also mean that her sighs demonstrate her lack of trust in him. The same argument applies to her tears; she depletes his “life’s blood” (line 16) when she cries. This is why she said to be “unkindly kind” with her tears (line 15); this oxymoron emphasizes the lover’s pain in seeing the extent of her need to be with him. He concludes the stanza complaining that “It cannot be/That thou lov’st me” (lines 21-22), since she appears willing to “waste” his best parts (perhaps the beloved herself as she pines for him).
In the final stanza, the lover warning his beloved against future ills she may bring upon him if she continues to fear a future without him. He urges her “divining heart” (line 25) to avoid predicting him harm; it is possible that “Destiny may take thy part” and fulfill her fears (lines 27-28) by leading to true dangers. He prefers that she instead see his absence as a moment in the night when the two of them are in bed together, merely “turn’d aside to sleep” (line 30). He leaves her with the encouragement that two people whose love is their very lifeblood can “ne’er parted be” (line 32); they are always together in spirit.
This poem bears similarities to Donne’s other work about departure from his loved one, “Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.” The tone of the song considered here is lighter, however, and the imagery not so controlled, poignant, or unexpected as that latter work. Nevertheless, it is worth attempting to read this poem, like so many others of Donne’s, as a spiritual allegory. Perhaps one again can see the lover as God and the beloved as the Church, in which case one might find a resonance with the promised second coming of Jesus in the Christian tradition; in this tradition he will soon return to the world even though he was crucified.

Ode on Solitude

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Happy the man, whose wish and care 
   A few paternal acres bound, 
Content to breathe his native air, 
                            In his own ground. 

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread, 
   Whose flocks supply him with attire, 
Whose trees in summer yield him shade, 
                            In winter fire. 

Blest, who can unconcernedly find 
   Hours, days, and years slide soft away, 
In health of body, peace of mind, 
                            Quiet by day, 

Sound sleep by night; study and ease, 
   Together mixed; sweet recreation; 
And innocence, which most does please, 
                            With meditation. 

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown; 
   Thus unlamented let me die; 
Steal from the world, and not a stone 
                            Tell where I lie.
Ode on Solitude Analysis
Verse by Verse
Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air,
In his own ground.
This first verse of Ode on Solitude begins the analogy that will carry through the poem, seen through the life of an anonymous man who is described as being an ideal for happiness. His deepest desires, the narrator notes, extends a few acres of his own land, where he is content to live and work. The inclusion of the word “parental” suggests that the land belongs to this man by inheritance, and therefore belongs solely to him. “Content to breathe his native air” could also be a commentary on being happy with what a person has, rather than constantly wishing for more (although this might not have been quite as significant an idea in 1700, when the poem was written, as it may be interpreted today).
The verse structure and rhyming pattern is established here; three lines of eight syllables each, followed by one line of four syllables, rhyming in an ABAB pattern. This persists up until the final two stanzas, at which point the final line lengthens to five syllables.
Whose heards with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire,
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.
This verse simply means that the man is self-sufficient. His land, now shown to be a farm, provides for all of his needs — his herds provide him with milk, he is able to bake his own bread. In the summer, his trees provide ample shade, and in the winter the wood from those same trees can be lit to keep him warm. He has no need of anything beyond his own land.
While this verse reads strangely, as “bread” and “shade” do not rhyme, it is important to remember thatOde on Solitude was written over three hundred years ago. During this period in Britain, “bread” was pronounced with a longer vowel sound. While word pronunciation is a difficult thing to estimate and predict throughout different eras of history, it makes sense to believe that at one point, “bread” and “shade” could be used as rhymes for one another.
Blest! who can unconcern’dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away,
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,
The narrator considered this farmer blessed! Time almost doesn’t have meaning for this man; his world provides for all of his needs. Hours go by, days go by, years go by, and everything remains the same. The health the man is in at the beginning of this cycle is the health he remains in when it is finished. Peace of mind is normal for him — what is there to trouble him? It seems as though, in a world of peace and quiet, there is absolutely nothing that could disrupt the life of this farmer, and the narrator sees that as a high blessing.
Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mix’d; sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please,
With meditation.
This verse sees the start of the final lines being five syllables long, and continues the sentiment of the verse before it. The idea of innocence is introduced here, and is a fair way to describe a man who lives his life in isolation; he is innocent, which means he himself probably doesn’t appreciate the kind of life he leads in the same way the narrator, author, or reader does. It’s a strange idea and casts the character of the farmer in a different light. He could, in fact, be viewed as a na├»ve and ignorant individual, one who simply doesn’t know enough about the world, or he could be viewed as living the ideal life.
Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me dye;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lye.
The narrator of the poem clearly agrees with the latter of the above sentiments — here he wishes for escapism, and begs for an unseen life, one where he may live in solitude until his dying days, which will come and go, unnoticed, unremarked, and unadorned, a perfect life of solitude and peace.