John Milton's Sonnet 16 Essay

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John Milton's Sonnet 16

In his sonnets, John Milton tackles a number of subjects which he addresses at considerably greater length in his other poetry and prose. These subjects range from religious to political, and rarely is any one piece of writing limited to one or the other of those fields. While his Sonnet 16 begins with a challenge to familiar biblical passages, Milton ultimately uses it to offer a critique of the nearly ubiquitous comparison between the king and God.

The sonnet features two motifs that run throughout the first seven lines. Both are biblical, and both are introduced in the first line. The one that seems to be the most significant is the light and dark imagery. In the first line, it sounds like
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This defensive blasphemy is further explained when the other biblical motif is examined.

Milton seems to have a strange relationship with the parable of the talents. While he uses it in his writing more than once, he does not relate to it in the same way many of his contemporaries did. It is not, for him, a simple justification of usury; it is a call to Christian action that in this case seems to overwhelm him. His poem is scattered with the language of economics: his light is “spent”, he must present a “true account”, and he refers to following his vocation as “day-labour” (1, 6, 7). This, of course, fits with the double meaning of “talent”, which he uses in line 3 to cement the ties of the poem to both the Bible and the marketplace. Milton emphasizes the base, worldly aspect of this parable in order to defend his own difficulties with it. His light is spent before he has had a chance to put his talent to use, he hasn’t been given a fair shot, but this is ok because after all, what is a talent but money.

This argument of Milton’s is strengthened by a close study of lines 3-5. “And that one talent which is death to hide,/ lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent/ to serve therewith my maker,” Milton explains. In the parable of the talents, the servant who is allotted one

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