I am fairly new to poetry and I understand from the Bible that something related to God/God is usually capitalized.

Why is it that in the Milton's poem, When I consider how my light is spent, the words Land and Ocean capitalized? Also the word Talent. Is it because he is referring to the Parable of the Talents?

When I consider how my light is spent,
   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, and present
   My true account, lest he returning chide;
   “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
   I fondly ask. But patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
   Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
   Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
   And post o’er Land and Ocean without rest:
   They also serve who only stand and wait.”
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    'Rules' were much laxer in those days. Many nouns were capitalised (I'm not sure if there was any real consistency to this). Even the adjective kingly gets the capital treatment; this must be by association (describing God). – Edwin Ashworth Dec 5 '19 at 16:08
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    Read other documents from 200+ years ago. You will find lots of capitalized nouns. Example ... ushistory.org/Declaration/document – GEdgar Dec 5 '19 at 16:41
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    Punctuation and capitalization and, indeed, grammar change over the years. Research this site for such a question as 'should Earth be capitalized' and you can find questions about Earth/earth, Universe/universe, etc. Note that no matter what the answers say, the actual answer is that you yourself can decide whether to capitalize such words or not, since it is a style issue. Another one is Nature/nature. – Arm the good guys in America Dec 5 '19 at 19:34
  • In some contexts the terms for certain "universal concepts" are capitalized. This isn't as common as it used to be, but it's still done in some cases. – Hot Licks Dec 6 '19 at 1:17

The author is using capitalization to present these particular ideas in a grand, abstract, or conceptual way. The capitals signal not to read these as plain, physical entities, but rather as broader notions with embedded meaning. For example, whereas “land” might suggest “dirt”, “Land” instead suggests the foundation on which humanity has built civilization. The author is effectively indicating that some of these words carry more poetic weight than others.

That said, the simpler explanation is that this is poetry, and that’s simply what the poet felt like doing.


Poetry does not have to abide by any rules of punctuation - you can punctuate as you feel you want your poem to read. It's not just God that is capitalised in the example you give, any word that the poet deems important is capitalised. Likewise, many poets write an entire poem with no caps or other punctuation. It's all part of the art of poetry!



It is a conventional style to start every line of a poem in upper case.

Modern poets skip cap letters and even punctuation.https://www.youngwriterssociety.com/work.php?id=102233

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    'Talent''Soul' 'Land' and 'Ocean' are not at the beginning of lines. – Nigel J Dec 6 '19 at 9:25

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