Invocation in Paradise Lost

The Invocation is a device used by all epic poets. The purpose of the invocation is the introduction of the theme and seeking inspiration from the Muse. The Muse is invoked for the reason of providing Milton with ideas and expressions which have not been attempted till now. In the light of the narrator’s rejection of classical Muses of the Spirit, we can judge how far an epic has been transformed. The narrator provides unity to the Epic by his invocations opening books I, III, IV and IX.

Although claiming the status if literary authorship, the text must display the tenuousness of its spiritual authority. Accordingly, at the narrator’s first appearance the prayer for divine inspiration, for the authority to speak truth, involves an equally emphatic reference to blindness, both physical and spiritual. “What in me is dark/ Illumine” (I, 22-3). Constant reference to the reader maintains the reader’s sense of the text’s construction, its objectives and its problems as well.

The juxtaposition of the narrator’s self with hero and heroic epic is a reading clue to his courage in confronting the tragedy of Fall, striving to describe adequately something by which he himself is compromised as a storyteller.

Milton’s theme is man’s disobedience of God’s commandment and the consequences of this Fall. References to “one greater man” and “ that Shepherd” are to Christ where the narrator looks up for redemption. He embarks on a feat of spiritual danger, presuming to portray God and his truth despite all the human fallibilities in this postlapsarian world. Without his guide, the Holy Spirit, his flight will fail.

In this alienation from God’s sight, as also in his boast of a daring undertaking, the narrator’s one counterpart within the narrative quite strongly is Satan himself. Against this sinister parallel, this embodiment of the false speaking and fake authority to which the narrator himself may succumb, the invocations repeatedly announce the narrator’s lack of self-sufficiency and the need for God’s authorization by way of inspiration.

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