On His Blindness: Summary, Theme & Analysis

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: T.S. Eliot's The Burial of The Dead: Analysis & Explanation

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Poem Summary
  • 2:26 Theme
  • 3:00 Analysis: Structure,…
  • 3:56 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

In this lesson, you will learn what John Milton's poem 'On His Blindness' is about, its major theme, and how to analyze its features in terms of structure and figurative language.

Poem Summary

Many people are familiar with the story of Ludwig Van Beethoven. This man, in spite of being deaf, managed to become a world-renowned composer. What a terrible fate: to have the sense most integral to your art be taken away from you. Similar is the story of John Milton, an English poet, who, by 1655 at age 48, was blind. His ability to write was threatened and, as a result, his relationship with God became complicated.

In On His Blindness, Milton is struggling to understand what God expects of him now that he is losing his sight. He's upset about wasting 'that one Talent which is death to hide' (line 3), which is a biblical reference to the parable of the talents (Matthew 25: 14-30), in which two people invest their talents (in the story, 'talents' are money), while another just hides his talent in a hole and is punished. Milton feels that God expects him to use his talent for writing poetry in a way that honors Him.

Milton is frustrated that his lack of sight is preventing him from serving God when he wants to so badly:

...Though my Soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account...
(lines 4-6)

Milton's 'true account' refers to his religious poetry. Much of his poetry was concerned with God's relationship to mankind and he considered it a serious duty to write poetry that simultaneously made God's mysterious ways more clear to people and honored God with its craft.

At line 7, Milton wonders if God still expects him to keep writing without his sight, then decides that God is more forgiving than he was giving him credit for, Surely, knowing of his condition and strong desire to please Him, God wouldn't expect anything that he couldn't possibly accomplish, nor would he punish him.

The last half of the poem has a calmer tone. It's almost like Milton realizes that while he's writing that people can serve God in many different ways. It's the intent and the grace with which one deals with hardship that counts:

Who best
Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best.

Within 14 lines, Milton has depicted a wavering, then regaining of faith.


While the poem discusses Milton's blindness, his condition is used to explore his faith. Like Milton's other religious poetry, the purpose is to decide what a person's relationship with God and his or her role on Earth should look like.

At first, he was afraid he would be punished for wasting his talent and seemed almost distrusting of God (who, presumably, might have the power to cause or prevent his blindness) still expecting him to write, then he decided that bearing his blindness gracefully and doing the best he could would satisfy Him.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account