Editor's note:

From the Intro­duc­tion in Spir­i­tu­al Clas­sics:

The two short poems that fol­low show the depth of Mil­ton’s spir­i­tu­al life. Each one describes a cri­sis of faith in which he feels trapped by cir­cum­stances but gains the grace to trust God’s will.

In the first, writ­ten soon after he left Cam­bridge Uni­ver­si­ty, Mil­ton com­plains that he has turned twen­ty-three with­out hav­ing accom­plished any­thing. His life feels emp­ty and incon­clu­sive. Mid­way through the poem, he grasps the impor­tance of sub­mis­sion: God’s will, not his own, will ensure the right outcome.

In the sec­ond poem, writ­ten late in life, Mil­ton’s obsta­cle is the blind­ness, which, he fears, has left his great tal­ent use­less.” Again, as in his youth, Mil­ton sub­mits to God’s will for him, align­ing him­self with the sub­mis­sion of the angels to the will of God: they also serve who only stand and wait.”

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from Spiritual Classics

On His Hav­ing Arrived at the Age of Twenty-three

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 showeth.
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 endueth.
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 task-mas­ter’s eye.

On His Blindness

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.” 

Excerpt­ed from Spir­i­tu­al Clas­sics: Select­ed Read­ings on the Twelve Spir­i­tu­al Dis­ci­plines, edit­ed by Richard J. Fos­ter and Emi­lie Grif­fin (New York: Harper­One, 2000).

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