Sonnet 16, also known as "On His Blindness," by John Milton finds the poet contemplating his usefulness to God in his present state of being blind. The sonnet was written after Milton lost his eyesight in 1652.
The speaker begins by revealing his thoughts about living in a world of blindness while wanting more than ever to serve his maker. He fears being found inadequate at the Lord's return. He asks, "Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?” He wants to know that God does not hold him responsible for not doing more. Patience answers him. Patience is personified in the sonnet as the one advising Milton regarding his dilemma. Of course, patience is what Milton needs to have with himself and his situation. Patience tells Milton that God does not need anything man is able to give Him. What God wants, according to the sonnet, is for man to deal gracefully with what happens to him in life. "Who best bear his mild yoke, they serve him best" Patience advises the speaker. While God's work is accomplished by many people doing many different tasks, the sonnet says that "They also serve who only stand and wait." According to the Literature, Arts and Medicine Database, the poet learns that, in his situation, accepting his blindness is part of God's work for Milton. Indeed, he wrote "Paradise Lost" after losing his sight.