Sonnet 16 (On His Blindness )

Milton, John

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Sonnet

Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine
  • Date of entry: Jul-02-1997
  • Last revised: Sep-08-2006


In this sonnet, the speaker meditates on the fact that he has become blind (Milton himself was blind when he wrote this). He expresses his frustration at being prevented by his disability from serving God as well as he desires to. He is answered by "Patience," who tells him that God has many who hurry to do his bidding, and does not really need man’s work. Rather, what is valued is the ability to bear God’s "mild yoke," to tolerate whatever God asks faithfully and without complaint. As the famous last line sums it up, "They also serve who only stand and wait."


This poem presents a carefully reasoned argument, on the basis of Christian faith, for the acceptance of physical impairment. The speaker learns that, rather than being an obstacle to his fulfillment of God’s work for him, his blindness is a part of that work, and that his achievement lies in living patiently with it. (Milton himself went on to write his twelve-book epic poem, "Paradise Lost," after becoming blind.)


Written c.1652

Primary Source

John Milton: Complete Shorter Poems



Place Published





John Carey