Figures of Old Age in Fourteenth-Century English Literature. Aging and the Aged in Medieval Europe ed. Michael M. Sheehan CSB. Papers in Mediaeval Studies 11., ed. Michael M. Sheehan CSB. Papers in Mediaeval Studies 11.
Seen in the context of spiritual growth, the three Do’s reflect the traditional ideas of ceaseless development and the importance of individual experience. Manning focuses on the definitions presented by Clergy (B.13.128-30), Will (B.11.412), and Patience (B.13.1). The anger and envy of Elde in P3A partake of the conventional fourteenth-century representation of the mental characteristics of age, as does the sense of horror and entrapment Will feels as Death approaches (B.20.198-202) and the motif of the aged man’s impotence. Notwithstanding his didactic role as a spiritual guide or harbinger of mortality, the ancient’s moral nature is generally ambiguous: Elde in P3A is threatening and repulsive; Will is outraged by Elde’s cruel treatment of him.37-38). The futility of classifying stages of spiritual growth is stressed by such writers as William of St. Thierry, John Ruusbroec, Gregory of Nyssa, Macarius, and Augustine; as with the latter, the search in PPl changes when the subject begins to understand the complexity of what he is searching for. Piers’s definition of Dowel and Dobet as “infinities” reflects both the tradition’s incessant search for growth and man’s infinite capabilities; Will’s definition of Dowel marks his advance in spiritual growth and shows he is prepared for the liturgically based visions to come. Piers symbolizes the fulfillment of man’s divine potential; Will demonstrates the effort needed to turn this potential into a small degree of actuality.
Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1990. 107-16.
Nitecki, Alicia K.