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CRUEL WORLD How often do we find ourselves at the top of the world only to tumble down the mountainside the next day? There are many illustrations of this occurrence in literature, and certain literary works reinforce the idea. Some of the works derive from the experience of their authors, but even the pieces that are products of imagination are filled with this cycle of life, a cycle so engrained in us that even the authors’ dreams can’t escape its presence. Every person has several points in his life where he lives in an imaginary paradise, but an enemy is always lurking behind the veil of that illusion. The idea that every paradise has someone or something waiting to end its bliss is apparent in Cantares Mexicanos. In “Song XII,” the Aztecs are singing about the beauty of the environment that surrounds them. The flowers they sing about “intoxicate one’s soul with life” (Cantares Mexicanos 16), and bright and majestic birds fill their paradise. However, an enemy lurks outside their city, threatening to destroy the peace they’ve enjoyed (16). This poem from the Aztecs is a prime historic example of the rise and fall of paradise. Many more examples of fading paradise can be drawn from other texts. The romance, Monkey, paints a picture of a primate clan that discovers a vast stone kingdom. The kingdom has everything the clan needs, and they live in contentment for hundreds of years (Ch’eng-en 43). The Monkey King, the one who crossed the waterfall and found their kingdom (42), is the individual who grows unhappy (43). Feeling death creeping up on him, his sorrow grows. His current paradise is coming to an end so he sets out to learn the ways of the Immortals in order to make his paradise last (44). Unfortunately, his efforts are in vain, since all mundane things pass in time. Then there is Moliere’s Tartuffe, where the idea of a lost paradise is profound. Orgon is the first example. He is the head of his household, and everything under his reign is falling into place the way he desires: the bond with his friend Tartuffe is growing (Moliere 113), the engagement of Mariane, Orgon’s daughter, to Valère is called off—against her will—so she can marry Tartuffe (118), and Tartuffe accepts Orgon’s embrace of him as a son (136-137).

Profile for University of Jamestown

Plainsong 2013  

Art and literary journal of University of Jamestown, Jamestown, N.D.

Plainsong 2013  

Art and literary journal of University of Jamestown, Jamestown, N.D.