Nostalgic wanderings

One thing which is missing from ancient and medieval literature is nostalgia. True, Ulysses can’t wait to see his wife, his kingdom and his native shores. The medieval mind dreams about the Kingdom of Heaven and adopts the restlessness of the pilgrim, the viator, keen to complete the journey and oblivious to present comforts. But the pain of the return, the essence of nostalgia (from the Greek nostos for homecoming and algos for suffering) is somehow missing from the picture.

And yet there are traces of wistful backward glances and homesickness in the outlook of the medieval mind. Neoplatonism is partly responsible for that. The thirst for joining the primordial being never left the West. Nor did its desire to return to its origins, even though that takes the form of recovery of once-possessed-now-lost rather than a commitment to turn back time. I guess the myth of progress, which was to mature in the post-medieval period, but growing in those times, prevented the medievals from dwelling in the past. The future is so important and the duty to making oneself ready for when the time comes is so important, that there is not much space for nostalgic sullennness. Regrets yes, but not the romantic struggling of the soul with the oppression of time and the nothingness of existence.

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