Milton’s Sonnet 22 on His Blindness: What is Metaxyturn?

In his Milton (The Poetry of John Milton, HUP 2015), Gordon Teskey remarks on the final line of Milton’s sonnet ‘To Mr Cyriack Skinner’ that an ambiguity may be a happy accident. To take ‘blind’ in a ‘spiritual’ sense would resolve a serious flaw in the logic. Did Milton place his confidence in his ‘fate’ already achieved—- in the past? Did he MEAN that he would be guided by that henceforth? Or possibly that Heaven’s hand, which took his sight away, would supply him with another, perhaps greater task, irrespective or otherwise of his blindness.

Teskey speculates that this doubled meaning, with the second pregnant in the words of the first, would have surprised Milton himself. Pp 253f.

Metaxyturn refers to this action, intended it not, caused by the forces put in motion by the poet. It is ‘agapeic’ on the analogy of a willed effect within the scope of the selving process of the erotic sovereignty of the writer in contrast to an unwilled effect of verbal consequences of the deepest structural movements within the poem and the traditions of the language, considered as communication in the ontological sense.


Author: Tom D'Evelyn

Tom D'Evelyn is a private editor and writing tutor in Cranston RI and, thanks to the web, across the US and in the UK. He can be reached at D'Evelyn has a PhD in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley. Before retiring he held positions at The Christian Science Monitor, Harvard University Press, Boston University and Brown University. He ran a literary agency for ten years, publishing books by Leonard Nathan and Arthur Quinn, among others. Before moving to Portland OR he was managing editor at Single Island Press, Portsmouth NH. He blogs at and other sites.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: