The Perfect Age of Man’s Life.
Pp. 103-24: WL does not offer the traditional representations of the steady, measured progression of the ages and the assigning of each individual man to his proper place within the scheme; he sees the perfect age of manhood as a hoped for, even expected, condition, but one assuredly achieved only by Christ. For WL the progress of man’s life is neither gradual nor predictable; he is most concerned with the moments of crisis when one age confronts another. His myddel age, like Medill Elde in P3A, is not the perfect age of full maturity, but a transitional age most timely for the amendment of life. In C. 11 Pride-of-perfect-living is linked with youth, in a mockery of the idea of perfect age, to be succeeded by old age and poverty. WL’s reconstruction of Will’s dream in C. 15 shows that the waking Dreamer no longer inhabits any age space: he has left Fortune’s territory but is unsure if he will enter Elde’s. The reader cannot associate manhood with any stage the Dreamer has experienced. WL’s “hy tyme” combines the notions of “solemn period of time” and “fully time”; it comes to be associated with manhood in the figure of Christ, who has completed adolescentia, attained manhood, and begun his fight against the Devil. Hy tyme is Christ’s entire time on earth; his perfect age was not preceded by imperfection, as was the Dreamer’s youth. Piers, a mediator between Christ and the Dreamer, is, like Christ, never young; unlike Christ he experiences old age, partaking fully of “doomed-to-die humankind, just as the Dreamer does.” But Piers is not menaced by elde or hindered from carrying out the fruitful actions associated with manhood.
Rev. Alison Lee, English 36 (1987): 267-71; Jane Chance, SAC 11 (1989): 208-12; John B. Friedman, YLS 3 (1989): 137-52; Götz Schmitz, Archiv 225 (1988): 375-79; Diane Speed, Parergon ns 7 (1989): 119-20; Faith Wallis, Speculum 64 (1989): 936-39.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.