Miltonic Sonnet

Miltonic sonnets followed a rhyme scheme of ABBAABBACDECDE and conformed to the pattern of iambic pentameter. But, there was no defined separation between the first eight lines, or octave, and the following six, or sestet.

Milton often added in a problem at the beginning of the poem that was resolved or addressed by the end. This is a feature that is common to all sonnets.

The Miltonic Sonnet is one of the main sonnet forms and was popularized by the poet John Milton who was born in 1609 in London, England. This sonnet form is similar to both the Petrarchan, or Italian, and Shakespearean, or English, sonnet forms. Milton chose to write, as did Shakespeare, on a single major theme per sonnet. Milton’s sonnets were less focused on love, dedication, and emotional experiences than they were on themes of politics, intellectual pursuits, and spirituality.

Here is the text from one of John Milton’s most famous sonnets:

On His Blindness (also known as ‘Sonnet 19’ and ‘When I consider how my light is spent’)

[read the full analysis of ‘On His Blindness‘ here]

When I consider how my light is spent,

   Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,

   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-labour, 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.”

The sonnet is believed to have been written before 1664, after the poet, John Milton, had gone completely blind. The lines follow the Petrarchan rhyme scheme and also make use of iambic pentameter. Milton deals with practical matters, like how he’s going to continue his work if he’s blind, as well as spiritual ones, such as how he’ll serve God.

Some other famous Miltonic sonnets are:

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