Since before literature existed, men have expressed their sense of the imperfection of the world by creating, in their imaginations, ideal worlds whose inhabitants are free from the burden of old age, the harshness of the seasons and the need to struggle for survival against nature and their fellow-men. The best known of these worlds is, of course, the Garden of Eden, the account of which conveys the belief that man was created for an existence other than the one in which he actually finds himself, that he is now a stranger in an alien land, struggling for existence in hostile surroundings, destined for death and compelled laboriously to produce those necessities of life which the earth once freely gave to him. The Christian belief in the New Jerusalem, on the other hand, expresses the conviction that man’s present exile is only temporary: through faith and the grace of God he will be brought back by Christ, the second Adam, into a heavenly paradise corresponding to the earthly paradise once forfeited by the first Adam. The Christian myth of ‘the eternal return’ is, however, only one version of a belief which appears continually in many different literatures and religions.
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Notes and References
- 1.Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return, trans. W. R. Trask (Bollingen Series, vol. XLVI, New York, 1954) p. 91.Google Scholar
- 6.Richard Hakluyt, The Principal Navigations Voyages Trafiques and Discoveries of the English Nation, 12 vols (1598–1600; Glasgow, 1903–5) vol. VIII, p. 305Google Scholar
- 7.Montaigne, ‘Of the Caniballes’, in Essays, trans. John Florio, 3 vols (1603; London, 1965) vol. I, p. 220.Google Scholar
- 15.Maynard Mack, ‘The World of Hamlet’, Yale Review, XLI (1951–2) 517.Google Scholar
- 17.See D. C. Allen, ‘The Degeneration of Man and Renaissance Pessimism’, Studies in Philology, XXXV (1938) 202–27Google Scholar