When Brendan and the monks arrive at Paradise, they find a beautiful landscape of flowers, mountains, rivers, animals, and fruits, without any thorn or brambles; basically, what many of us picture when we think of the Garden of Eden. An unspoiled place, largely untouched by the hand of man. And yet, guarding this paradise is a series of things very much in the realm of the manmade: a sword, a wall, a gate.
We often think of people in the Middle Ages, seeing Nature through the lens of Christianity, thought of the natural world as something they could own and dominate. Yet in this image of ideal nature, the home that was supposed to be humanity’s (“Which ought to have been inhabited by us”, as line 1708 puts it), the only manmade things serve to protect Nature. The implication is that these defenses were put in place by God, but still God in this poem chooses to make them in the form of human artifacts.
Is there room for a more nuanced view of Medieval Christianity’s depiction of Nature, or does this simply continue the trope of Nature as ours to do with as we wish? How and why?