Milton’s Paradise Lost is 350 years old this month.
William Blake, a most brilliant interpreter of Milton, wrote of how “the Eye of Imagination” saw beyond the narrow confines of “single vision”, creating works that outlasted “mortal vegetated Eyes”.
In more than 10,000 lines of blank verse, the poem tells the story of the war for heaven and of man’s expulsion from Eden. a meditation on challenging and longing.
In Paradise Lost, Milton conjures the spirits of blind prophets. He invokes Homer, author of the first great epics in Western literature, and Tiresias, the oracle of Thebes who sees in his mind’s eye what the physical eye cannot. As the philosopher Descartes wrote during Milton’s lifetime, “it is the soul which sees, and not the eye”.
Now, there are many ways to see through blindness. One is by scanning tunnelling microscopy which can give images on an atomic scale.