[Milton-L] "his own"

Paul Munn ptmunn at svsu.edu
Mon Jan 26 16:41:35 EST 2004

In Milton's sonnet XIX, when patience prevents the speaker's murmuring
that questions God's justice with "God doth not need / Either man's
works or his own gifts," I read "his" as "man's" to make the sense, "God
does not need what humans do for Him or what they give Him." 

Hughes and Flannagan seem to see the clause as unproblematic, but, as a
student observed in class, isn't "his" at least ambiguous, or isn't my
sense not necessarily right?  Couldn't "his," even though not
capitalized, mean "God's" and the sense be, "God does not need what
humans do for Him or the gifts He has given to man," a theological point
as orthodox as the first sense since in either case, God needs nothing.

Am I being too Fishy in allowing both senses as relevant and part of the
experience of the poem?  Or is one of the senses exclusive of the other?
 Or am I just missing something entirely.

Paul Munn
Professor of English
Saginaw Valley State University
University Center, Michigan 48710

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