Is paradise an island? The ancient Greeks believed that the spirits of their dead heroes inhabited the Elysian fields in the Isles of the Blest, far away to the west beyond Calpe and Abyla, the Pillars of Hercules.

Centuries later, searching for paradise, the Irish monk Saint Brendan (484-578) sailed far into the Atlantic Ocean, where he came upon an island of unsurpassed beauty and fertility which he believed to be the ‘Promised land of the Saints’. Saint Brendan’s sacred island remained clearly marked upon most maps for over a thousand years. Even today, most travel agents have at least one ‘island paradise’ inscribed on their books with which to entice clients anxious ‘to get away from it all’.

Is Hell an island? For millions of Africans sold into slavery, the island of Gorée, off the coast of Senegal, near Dakar, where they were held before being transported across the Atlantic, was the gateway to Hell. And few names evoke so readily the notion of Hell as that of Devil’s Island.

Is desperate hope an island? Hundred’s of thousands of ragged immigrants trembled on Ellis Island at the entrance to New York harbour where, as they had their first glimpse of the hoped-for land of promise, they waited to have their immigration applications processed.

Paradise or Purgatory, Heaven or Hell, islands leave no one indifferent – and least of all the world’s artists, poets and writers, musicians and scholars, as reflected in the sampling the following links.


Writings

Art