1] "... to external appearance they [my eyes] are as completely without injury, as clear and bright, without the semblance of a cloud, as the eyes of those whose sight is most perfect" (Milton, Second Defence). Composed not earlier than 1655. First printed in Phillips's Life of Milton. Cyriack Skinner, a grandson of the celebrated jurist Sir Edward Coke, had been one of Milton's pupils and remained his faithful friend.
this three years day: three years ago today.
6] argue: contend.
8] bear up: a nautical phrase, put the helm up, so as to bring the vessel into the direction of the wind (but with a memory also of the sense, "keep up one's spirits").
10] conscience: consciousness;
them: his eyes, i.e., their sight. 10-12.
Lines 10-12: Warned of his danger, Milton had deliberately sacrificed his much impaired vision to write his Defence of the English People, a work which spread his fame on the continent.
13] vain mask: empty pageant.
14] better guide: religious consolation and support (cf. Sonnet XIX).
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: John Milton, Poems, 2nd edn. (London: Thomas Dring, 1673). Facs. edn. Complete Poetical Works reproduced in photographic facsimile, comp. by H. F. Fletcher (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1943-48). PR 3551 F52 ROBA
First publication date: 1673
RPO poem editor: Hugh MacCallum, A. S. P. Woodhouse
RP edition: 3RP 1.238.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/24
Other poems by John Milton