Sonnet 19 by John Milton

This used to be one of the most famous poems in the English language. Maybe it still is, I don’t know. The basic idea is that blindness prevents the author from using his talents to serve God. This troubles him but then he remembers that we serve God not only by doing but also by not doing. He says it like this in the famous last line: “They also serve [God] who only stand and wait.”

Milton was a Christian, and the poem is about surrender as Christians understand it. But nothing stops us from noticing that the following message is consistent with the one Milton intended:

Sadhana is service to God, and sadhana is non-doing.

I happened to run across this poem today after I was told, hopefully for the last time, that I should do nothing. To celebrate this synchronicity I publish this brief article. There is even more synchronicity here than that because the poem describes what might be — who knows? — my last vasana, regret at not having used the talent God gave me.

No poems were hurt in the making of this post.

The Poem

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.”