By James M. Dean
A examine of past due fourteenth-century English old texts targeting the belief of worldwide historical past nearing its finish.
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Additional resources for The World Grown Old in Later Medieval Literature
The poet resolves the tension between the ostensibly pessimistic doctrine of ages, with its underlying metaphor of the world grown old, and the joyous fe lix culpa through an arch view o f Adam’s bondage. It might be most accurate to say that in this lyric the doctrine of the fortunate Fall simply overwhelms the clerical doctrine of ages and the world grown old in the same way that the New Testament, the New Man, and the New Song supplant the Old Testament, the vetus homo, and the Old Song. There is no overt denunciation of the sixth world age here, not even an implicit attack on the saeculum .
While the latter is a monitory lyric on the signs of death rather than on the threat o f Doomsday, it expresses the idea o f the world grown old on a microcosmic level. The warning is of death; the repetition, “ al to late, al to late,” carries the burden o f regret. The subtopics o f the morphology below are various and interrelated. It is often difficult, and perhaps wrongheaded, to separate moral topics from literary topics. I offer the list merely as a heuristic, a point o f de parture. M y goal is not to close off debate but to open it up.
46 See Bernheimer, W ild M en; Friedman, Monstrous Races, p. 200 and fig. 58; and Husband, W ild Man. Some sample illustrations from Husband’s book (which contains a catalogue o f an exhibition at the Cloisters from 9 October 1980 to 1 1 January 19 8 1) include a scene from the Luttrell Psalter, 1 3 3 5 - 4 0 (fig. 3); “ W ild M an at Bay,” from 26 THE WORLD GROWN OLD shaggy, brutish creatures, like Homer’s Cyclopes or the crazed Nebuchad nezzar, live apart from humans in forests and wildernesses.
The World Grown Old in Later Medieval Literature by James M. Dean