Hesiod, The Five Ages

The gods who own Olympusas dwelling-place,
deathless, made first of mortals a Golden Race,
(this was the time when Kronos in heaven dwelt),
and they lived like gods and no sorrow of heart they felt.
Nothing for toil or pitiful age they cared,
but in strength of hand and foot still unimpaired
they feasted gaily, undarkened by sufferings.
They died as if falling asleep; and all good things
were theirs, for the fruitful earth unstintingly bore
unforced her plenty, and they, amid their store
enjoyed their landed ease which nothing stirred,
loved by the gods and rich in many of herd.

Fifth is the race that I call my own and abhor.
O to die, or be later born, or born before!
This is the Race of Iron. Dark is their plight.
Toil and sorrow by day are theirs, and by night
the anguish of death; and the gods afflict them and kill,
though there's yet a trifle of good amid manifold ill.

Background

Hesiod was a Greek poet who lived in the 8th century BC.

In this passage Hesiod uses utopian imagery taken from ancient myth to describe a carefree life of plenty and happiness. The idealised golden age of the past is set against the troubled, present day world.

Ideal communities of mythology often exist outside history, at the beginning of time or beyond death.

Taken from: The Oxford Book of Greek Verse in Translation
Author / Creator: Hesiod (edited by Thomas Higham, translated by Cecil Bowra)
Publisher: Clarendon Press
Date: 1938
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: 11335.df.7