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LINES 1-55. THE INVOCATION TO LIGHT
Milton went blind in his forties. He married his second and third wives without seeing them. The whole of Paradise Lost-like Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes, the great works of Milton's maturity-was dictated to secretaries and to his daughters, who did not like the chore. Most of the poem was composed in the early hours of the morning, for Milton was an early riser. He waited impatiently for his secretary to arrive-like a cow waiting to be milked, he would say.
His anguish about his blindness is clearly expressed in the invocation to light. Book III is full of light, so he invokes its aid as God's first creation. But light cannot enter his eyes. Being blind does not prevent his enjoying classical poetry or the Hebrew Old Testament. Homer and other Greek poets were also blind. But the sense of regret is poignant:
ever-enduring dark Surrounds me, from the cheerful ways of men Cut off, and for the Book of Knowledge fair Presented with a universal blank Of Nature's works to me expunged and razed, And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.
So light must shine inside his mind, communicating what is after all invisible to all men.