Hail holy Light, offspring of Heav’n first-born,
Or of th’ Eternal Coeternal beam
May I express thee unblam’d? since God is Light,
And never but in unapproached Light
Dwelt from Eternity, dwelt then in thee,
Bright effluence of bright essence increate.
. . .
thee I revisit safe,
And feel thy Sovran vital Lamp; but thou
Revisit’st not these eyes, that roll in vain
To find thy piercing ray, and find no dawn;
So thick a drop serene hath quencht thir Orbs,
Or dim suffusion veil’d. Yet not the more
Cease I to wander where the Muses haunt
Clear Spring, or shady Grove, or Sunny Hill,
Smit with the love of sacred Song . . .
. . .
So much the rather thou Celestial Light
Shine inward, and the mind through all powers
Irradiate, there plant eyes, all mist from thence
Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell
Of things invisible to mortal sight.
(III.16; 2129; 5155)

These passages from Book III make up part of Milton’s second and longest invocation, which is also his most autobiographical and symbolic. Milton refers to light simultaneously as divine wisdom and literal light. When he speaks about his blindness he refers to both his inward blindness, or lack of divine wisdom, and his literal blindness, or loss of eyesight.

He begins by praising holy light as the essence of God. The idea that God is light was common before and during Milton’s time, and is a popular interpretation of certain biblical passages in Genesis. He then invokes his heavenly muse, the Holy Spirit, by reusing similar images and ideas from his first invocation; remember that Milton has asked for this heaven muse to illuminate “what in me is dark” (I.22). Symbolically, Milton asks for his muse to enter his body and fill him with divine knowledge.

Milton discusses his physical, outward blindness when he compares himself to other famous blind “Prophets old” (III.36), such as Homer (Maeonides) and Tiresias, and asks that he be filled with even more wisdom than them. He does not seek pity for his blindness, explaining that he is still active and undeterred from his poetic purpose. He believes that his outward blindness is insignificant, and that he hopes he is not inwardly blind. He hopes to sing beautifully like the darkling bird, which sings at night, unable to see who or what she is singing to. He ends his invocation by asking for his inward blindness to be corrected so that he can properly tell the story of Adam and Eve.


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