Personifications of Old Age in Medieval Poetry: Charles D’Orléans and William Langland
Medieval poets were fond of personification allegory for reasons that modern readers do not always find easy to appreciate. This essay explores some of the advantages of the allegorical mode by focusing on personifications of Old Age in two of the finest medieval allegorical poets: L and Charles d’Orléans. Each poet in his own way shows why Old Age is suited to personification. Growing old may be a gradual process objectively, but writers from all periods confirm the subjective experience that medieval allegories bring to life: psychologically, the awareness that we have aged takes us by surprise. The personification of Old Age is also sensitive to the social dimension of aging, to its indignities and humiliations. By imagining Old Age as a person with whom we have to interact socially, Charles D’Orléans and L manage to capture the bewilderments and embarrassments of the aging process. (AP; from the journal’s abstract)
Review of English Studies, 63 (2012), 388-409.