Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sonnet VII

By John Milton
On his being arrived at the age of 23.

How soon hath time, the subtle thief of youth,
Stolen on his wing my three and twentieth year!
My hasting days fly on with full career,
But my late spring no bud or blossom sheweth.
Perhaps my semblance might deceive the truth,
That I to manhood am arrived so near,
And inward ripeness doth much less appear
That some more timely happy spirits indueth.
Yet be it less or more, or soon or slow,
It shall be still in strictest measure even
To that same lot however mean or high,
Toward which time leads me and the will of heaven.
All is, if I have grace to use it so,
As ever in my great taskmaster's eye.


some guy on the street said...

ooh! I think I like that unusual rhyme scheme.

And salutations on this auspicious day! God keep you well,

dylan said...

hello Meredith --

I'm guessing that a "Happy Birthday!" is in order?

In which case: Happy birthday!

Meredith said...

Thanks, guys!

paul bowman said...

Sounds a little angsty. I hope you're in a lighter frame of mind on your day than our fair scribe of the republic was on his.

Enbrethiliel said...


Belated Happy Birthday, Meredith! =D

(It's already March 29 over here.)

Santiago said...

This poem sucks.

Happy birthday!

Meredith said...

Paul: Yeah, he was being *rather* angsty. I think I was having an angsty/sardonic moment when I posted it, but I really had a fabulous day yesterday and I'm not feeling angsty at all.

Apparently Milton was trying to decide whether to take orders in the church of England, and one of his friends was asking him whether he was ever going to do anything besides study. (!) Milton wrote him a letter saying, admirably, that he wasn't going to rush into anything, and that his studies were worthwhile. But then he gives into the temptation to doubt himself, and writes this sheepish poem. At first I thought the "great taskmaster" was very cold and Puritan, but in the letter he explains that he is referring to the parable of the workers in the vineyard: everyone got the same reward from the Master, no matter when he started working. So it's actually very un-utilitarian, although the language makes it hard to figure that out. He puts all of this better and clearer in a much later sonnet, number 19: "God doth not need / Either man's work or his own gifts, who best / Bear his milde yoak, they serve him best... They also serve who only stand and waite."

Most of Milton's sonnets are not to my taste. I do love the one to his "late espoused Saint," though. And Sonnet 19 has a similar theme to the one I just posted, but obviously it's much better in both craft and maturity - he was blind and in his forties when he wrote it, and he had real lost opportunities to regret.

Enbrethiliel said...


Okay, Meredith, I've cracked. =S What did your comment mean???

paul bowman said...

Thanks, Meredith. Delighted to be the occasion for thoughtful appendix.

I know I've read both this and #19 before — in college, almost certainly, if not since. A long time, in any case. Milton never really appealed to me, even though I was happy in a church very favorable to the 17th-cent. Puritans at the time I read him a bit in college. Probably wouldn't be a bad thing for me to take a look at him again, if only to read without the distraction of uncertainty, in the back of my mind, whether as a confessional Presbyterian I really ought to be enjoying him more. haha! (Not that any educated Presbyterians of that circle were much bothered with needing to defend an oddball like Milton. But it was all too new to me to appreciate that, then.) Or rather — better — if only to do him the honor of reading with a little more maturity.

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