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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Milton on his Blindness

By John Milton (1608–1674)

From ‘Paradise Lost

HAIL, holy Light, offspring of Heaven first-born,

Or of the Eternal co-eternal beam!

May I express thee unblamed? since God is light,

And never but in unapproachèd light

Dwelt from eternity—dwelt then in thee,

Bright effluence of bright essence increate!

Or hear’st thou rather pure ethereal stream,

Whose fountain who shall tell? Before the sun,

Before the heavens, thou wert, and at the voice

Of God, as with a mantle, didst invest

The rising world of waters dark and deep,

Won from the void and formless Infinite!

Thee I revisit now with bolder wing,

Escaped the Stygian pool, though long detained

In that obscure sojourn, while in my flight,

Through utter and through middle darkness borne,

With other notes than to the Orphean lyre

I sung of chaos and eternal Night,

Taught by the heavenly Muse to venture down

The dark descent, and up to reascend,

Though hard and rare. 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 quenched their orbs,

Or dim suffusion veiled. 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; but chief

Thee, Sion, and the flowery brooks beneath,

That wash thy hallowed feet, and warbling flow,

Nightly I visit: nor sometimes forget

Those other two equaled with me in fate,

So were I equaled with them in renown,

Blind Thamyris and blind Mæonides,

And Tiresias and Phineus, prophets old:

Then feed on thoughts that voluntary move

Harmonious numbers; as the wakeful bird

Sings darkling, and, in shadiest covert hid,

Tunes her nocturnal note. Thus with the year

Seasons return; but not to me returns

Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn

Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer’s rose,

Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;

But cloud instead and ever-during 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 rased,

And wisdom at one entrance quite shut out.

So much the rather thou, Celestial Light,

Shine inward, and the mind through all her powers

Irradiate; there plant eyes; all mist from thence

Purge and disperse, that I may see and tell

Of things invisible to mortal sight.