When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wife,
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-labor, 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."
Milton's sonnet, reflecting on his blindness, his aging, and his function in relation to God and the world at large, is so personal, yet I find it relevant even to my own life. Now, I couldn't be much further from Milton as far as situation goes. He was the most hated man in Europe, having written a defense of what was widely considered regicide. He was blind, and halfway through life, unable to (without assistance) exercise his tremendous gift for the written word. I'm a college student, hopefully nowhere near halfway through life, but despite all of that, the personal aspect of the poem cuts through time, reaching me (and I hope, you).
The line that sticks with me most from this poem is the final line, "They also serve who only stand and wait." Oftentimes, if I feel crippled by inaction, I remind myself of this line. As frustrating as it can be to do nothing but stand and wait for an opportunity, that in itself is an action that can be laudable. There needs to be differentiation between inaction and standing in service, but I think it's a good line to keep in mind. I know it helps me get by sometimes.
What about you? What strikes you most about Milton's sonnet?