the popular basis, foundation within the people at large. This he felt would only be attained through true godly reformation of the individual, rather than the pitched battles of the temporal sword, the daily inner battles of the spiritual sword. In lines 697-700 Milton refers to the loss of earnings and sickness (with gout) he endured during the 1660s. It is safe to say that Milton could not have written Samson Agonistes without thinking of and recalling his own experiences of witnessing the failure and collapse of the 'good old cause', the republican experiment and the godly reformation, the dashed hopes for the creation of a New Jerusalem and the liberation of God's chosen people. Since his childhood, Milton's eyes had been weakening, and around 1644 his sight noticeably began to fail. In 1650, Milton was assigned the task of writing a response to the French pro-Royalist Claudius Salmasius' attack on the English republic and regicide (Pro Populo Anglicano Defensio). Though Milton had almost lost sight in one of his eyes by this time and he was warned against writing the Defensio by surgeons, the poet persevered, and his blindness ensued further, becoming total during the winter of 1651-52 when he was 43. Sonnet XIX, 'When I consider how my light is spent' (1652?), perhaps Milton's best-known sonnet, appears to be the record of the poet's initial reaction to the onset of complete blindness.

'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' (ll.2-5)

Here Milton laments the onset of his blindness and its effects for his ability to write poetry and prose; counterpoised to this Milton considers the spiritual benefit of condition, that it has brought him closer to God. This spiritual interpretation of the poet's blindness was replicated in the prose tract The Second Defense of the English People where Milton revealed he considered that blindness allowed him to receive God's inner light more clearly. Samson's lamentation regarding his blindness recalls Milton's Sonnet XIX, where the poet bemoans the loss of sight,

'O loss of sight, of thee I most complain!
Blind among enemies, O worse than chains,
Dungeon, or beggary, or decrepit age!

Light, the prime work of God, to me is extinct,
And all her various objects of delight

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