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 is 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.
--HESIOD, "WORKS AND DAYS"
The only authentic image of the future is, in the end, the failure of the present.
-- TERRY EAGLETON, "UTOPIA AND ITS OPPOSITES" (36)
Well before the neologisms that grew from the textual inventions of modernity, the world had been home to enough hunger, oppression, violence, suffering, and destruction to warrant creative and critical responses that opposed things as they were and tried as well to imagine a better way. Facing the horrors of his society in the eighth century B.C.E., Hesiod creates the image of a Golden Age in which humanity "lived like gods and . . . feasted gaily." 1 But to set the comparative stage for this imagined era of "all good things" in which no "sorrow of heart" was felt, he brings what was outside his door into his text to evoke the "toil and sorrow" and "anguish of death" that beset the people of his time and produce the desire for that better, even golden life. Although the manifest chronology of the poem implies the primacy of the Golden Age, with the "fifth race" of his own time following sadly behind, the "plight" of the moment is the condition that catalyzes the poet's social dream. By naming the evils of his existing reality and suggesting their