When I Consider How My Light is Spent (On His Blindness)
by John Milton
The Parable of the Talents
The poem hinges on a pun on "talent" in the sense of "skill" and "talent" as a unit of monetary measurement in Biblical times. The parable of talents occurs in chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew, and it tells the story of two servants improving their own lot by increasing the bounty of their master. In the first section, the speaker compares God to the "lord" in the parable who goes away on a trip and returns to ask what his servants have done with their money. In the second section of the poem, "patience" explains that God is more like a king who does not need all his servants to actively work for him.
- Line 1: The word "spent" becomes a pun when we read it in light of the discussion of money and currency in the next few lines. The speaker's ability to see is like a currency, and he has unfortunately burned through it too soon. That "light" was supposed to last him all the way through his retirement!
- Lines 3-5: The word "Talent" has a double meaning, as described above. The whole Biblical parable about hiding the talent and not turning the master's currency into a profit is used as an extended metaphor in which God is compared to the lord, while the speaker is the third servant who has buried the money.
- Line 6: The word "account" is also a double-entendre that works on both sides of the extended metaphor. In one sense, "account" is a story of justification for how the speaker has used his time on earth. In another sense, the "account" is the amount of money the servant in the parable is able to show to his lord. The servant must give this account after his lord has "returned" from traveling.
- Lines 11-12: We think that the observation that God's "state is Kingly" is meant to contrast God with the lord from the parable.