- Seasons return, but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of Ev'n or Morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or Summers Rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine;
(Book 3, lines 41-44)
Milton wrote the line "human face divine," and that caused me to think about people- all of us- in a completely different light. What would life be like if I couldn't see you, only put my hands to your face, and groping, try to identify your features? What would life be like if I could no longer look at my brothers, watch them grow up into strong, healthy young men? What would life be like if I were forever in a world of darkness after having lived so long in a world of light; if the hustle and bustle of New York meant nothing to me, if I couldn't revel in the glorious costumes of a Broadway show, if movies held no joy for me, if I couldn't try to read people's faces or gain any insight from their body language, but had to rely only upon their cool, modulated tone?
This of course led me to Isaac, our forefather. Either he was blind from the time the angels dripped tears into his eyes, or he became blind in his old age (perhaps from the smoke from the idolatrous offerings his daughters-in-law raised to the heavens). While we often think about his predicament only in light of the fact that it allowed Jacob to successfully engage in subterfuge, I wonder now about Isaac the man, Isaac the blind. What must that have been like? Those eyes, that had drunk in the nectar and honey of the Land of Israel, that had bathed in the affectionate glow of his mother, beheld his father and their likeness- now dimmed? Now no longer to look upon his children, his wife? Blind Isaac, aged and venerable, blessed with a keen sense of smell, able to discern the fragrance of the Garden of Eden, a keen sense of taste, reveling in the delightful food his son Esau brought him, yes, these were his, but his eyes, those were dimmed forevermore.
Blindness on a whole is a compelling idea in literature; Milton takes comfort in the fact that Tiresias and Homer were blind. Samson was blind, his eyes plucked out by his enemies; Oedipus blinded himself with the buckles of his wife and mother's gown. Gloucester's eyes are plucked out as well, and the eyes of various evil people in fairytales are plucked out by ravens. The blind are traditionally seen as having other qualities that compensate for their lack of physical sight; their other senses are more attuned or keen, or, as Milton explains, rather than having sight, the blind retain insight.
- 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. [ 55 ] (Book 3, lines 51-55)
I find that idea really interesting- that the blind are more attuned to God. That works by Samson, for instance- his last plea is to regain his former strength in order to crush his enemies when he himself falls, and that is granted him. However, God did not inform Isaac of the deception that was being practiced upon him, although he allowed it to occur, which suggests differently.
Anyway, it's an interesting topic, but most amazing is that my concern was for my books when it ought to have been for this very world...for the "human face divine."