“Milton Dictating to His Daughters,” an oil painting by Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860) pictures John Milton seated on a high-back red chair with his eyes closed and his hand resting on a cloth covered table with a vase of flowers. One daughter is presumably taking dictation with her notebook on her lap and quill in hand. The other daughter is off to the side and looks at her father. There is a vague sketch of a painting on a black wall.

6 Darkness Visible (TPE Hyperlinked Endnotes)

John Milton is in some ways the heart of There Plant Eyes. After all, the title comes from a passage in his 1667 Paradise Lost–read the short passage from the famous invocation to the Muse of Light that opens Book III and listen to Godin recite it HERE. In “Darkness Visible” (also a quote from Paradise Lost), she presents Milton and his blindness as representative of much admiration and criticism so often thoughtlessly heaped upon blind people of genius. By examining his dazzling poetry through the lens of his sighted critics and blind fans, a reader may come to know Milton a little better in all his glorious complexities.


Endnotes for Chapter 6

  1. “The Life of John Milton by John Phillips.” In Early Lives of Milton, edited by Helen Darbishire. Note that she attributes this anonymous early life to Phillips, but it has since been ascribed to Cyriack Skinner.
  2. Johnson, Life of Milton.
  3. Milton, Paradise Lost, I.1–6.
  4. Milton, Paradise Lost, I.61–64.
  5. Kuusisto, Eavesdropping,
  6. Kuusisto, Planet of the Blind,
  7. Milton, “To Leonard Philaras,”
  8. Magee and Milligan, On Blindness,
  9. Magee and Milligan, On Blindness,
  10. Magee and Milligan, On Blindness,
  11. Samuel Johnson, Life of Milton.
  12. Eliot, “Milton I.” Eliot prefaces this remark by saying: “The most important fact about Milton, for my purpose, is his I do not mean that to go blind in middle life is itself enough to determine the whole nature of a man’s poetry. Blindness must be considered in conjunction with Milton’s personality and character, and the peculiar education which he received. It must also be considered in connexion with his devotion to, and expertise in the art of music. Had Milton been a man of very keen senses—I mean of all the five senses—his blindness would not have mattered so much. But for a man whose sensuousness, such as it was, had been withered early by book learning, and whose gifts were naturally aural, it mattered a great deal. It would seem, indeed, to have helped him to concentrate on what he could do best.”
  13. Dobranski, Milton’s Visual Imagination, 6–8.
  14. Milton, Paradise Lost, I.283–91.
  15. Milton, Areopagitica,
  16. Milton, Paradise Lost, VIII.17–18.
  17. Milton, Paradise Lost, III.1.
  18. Milton, Paradise Lost, III.50–53.
  19. Milton, Paradise Lost, III.18–25.
  20. Brown, Milton’s Blindness,
  21. Milton, “Selections from Second Defense of the English People,”
  22. Brown, Milton’s Blindness,
  23. Brown, Milton’s Blindness,
  24. Brown, Corridors of Light, Chapter
  25. Milton, Paradise Lost, III.41–50.
  26. Eliot, “Milton I.”
  27. Kuusisto, Eavesdropping,
  28. Milton, Paradise Lost, IX.509–18.
  29. Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.505.
  30. Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.300–6.
  31. Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.466–91.
  32. Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.299.
  33. Milton, Paradise Lost, IV.358.
  34. Milton, Paradise Lost, IX.705–8.
  35. Milton, Paradise Lost, IX.865–66.


Satan’s “Darkness Visible”

Satan on his throne is an 1827 mezzotint engraving by John Martin. Satan sits on a stone throne in a huge underground cavern with chandeliers of flame suspended above. He is surrounded by his minions—thousands of devils stretching into the horizon of the darkness visible of Hell.

A Dungeon horrible, on all sides round
As one great Furnace flam’d, yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
Serv’d onely to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all; but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery Deluge, fed
With ever-burning Sulphur unconsum’d:
Such place Eternal Justice had prepar’d
For those rebellious, here thir Prison ordain’d
In utter darkness, and thir portion set
As far remov’d from God and light of Heav’n
As from the Center thrice to th’ utmost Pole.

–John Milton, Paradise Lost

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