Friday, July 20, 2012

John Milton and the Imagination

John Milton, living in England during the 17th century, is regarded by many as the greatest of English poets.  His monumental work, Paradise Lost, has a remarkable history. Detailing the story of the fall of Adam and Eve from paradise, and the plots of Satan, the work has a remarkable poetic resonance.  What is most interesting about the work, is that it was written when Milton was blind.  Much like Beethoven, who went deaf, it is interesting to muse upon the abilities of those who lose their principle sense, and still manage to create.  I would argue that in losing this sensibility, the imaginative powers are heightened.  Just as when one sense diminishes in an individual, the other senses increase - so to it seems the imaginative faculties of the afflicted can rise dramatically.  This can happen with more striking affect for those who create through that particular sense.  This argument can also be ascribed to Jorge Louis Borges, who also went blind.  Milton dictated his work to his daughters, who acted as a conduit for the then blind Milton, and helped create a work that is considered one of the greats of world literature.

1 comment:

TimT said...

Add to that list Homer's Odyssey and Iliad, Homer was said to be blind.

I sometimes wonder what would happen to my writing if I went blind, like Milton. I don't think I'd give up... but it might be a few years before I was able to write confidently again.

I'm glad I do things in multiple mediums now - pub poetry, blog writing - since it seems to me that's better insurance against that day of blindness, if it ever comes. It'd be much harder for a person who wrote almost entirely with the expectation of being published in book/magazine form having to make that radical shift later in life, in their 50s, say.