By Malabika Sarkar (auth.)
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Extra resources for Cosmos and Character in Paradise Lost
Milton soaring “above the flight of Pegasean wing” is not only rising above the level of classical epic as generally understood, in a conflation of “Olympian hill” and “Peagasean wing,” but also rising above the level of prophecy constructed in Bruno’s cabalism. Milton implores this Urania, a name that is not a simple reference to the classical Muse of Astronomy, but one with much greater accretions of meaning, and a much more sublime figure than the model of prophecy constructed by Bruno, to help him find a song for a “fit audience .
The invocation to light can be interpreted both as Milton’s prayer for empowerment, through divine inspiration, and his desire for recognition. Light would then be both enlightenment—a reception of inspiration—and an investiture transforming the epic poet and aligning him with Moses. 13; italics mine). The extent of Milton’s aspirations, as well as his own consciousness of the immense disparity of levels between himself and the inspired Moses, hinted at through the epithet “advent’rous,” becomes clearer through the play on light and blindness.
In a daring, however unscientific, assertion of gynocentric generation, Harvey, impelled by his vitalist convictions, put forward his thesis of fermentative as opposed to impregnate origins. This controversial vitalist philosophy of self-creation that is debated in the creation narratives in Paradise Lost appears also in this final invocation. Questioning the notion of a divinely inspired epic, the invocation in Book 9 offers, in its place, a radical view of the epic being generated by the materiality of events, as if the ferment of the “higher argument” energizes a self-generative creativity.