The Ages of Man
- The Ages of Man: A Study in Medieval Writing and Thought
by J.A. Burrow - Clarendon Press, 1986 – 211pp - £19.50.
Classical and medieval writers were different. They saw man's life as a series of stages, varying from three to twelve depending on your view. Biologists believed in three: youth, maturity and old age. Physiologists added another – childhood, making a scheme of four to harmonise with the seasons and the humours of the body. Theologians, speculating on the parable of the labourers in the vineyard, argued for six ages, and astrologers for seven, ruled by the seven stars. Yet others saw man's life as ten 'great weeks' of seven years, or twelve 'great months'. All agreed that every age had special features. Children were frivolous, adolescents amorous, mature people proud and the elderly avaricious and loveless. The ideas got into literature, as they did into Shakespeare, and into art. Pictures of the Magi often portrayed them as men of different ages, and the six ages of men can still be seen in a window of Canterbury Cathedral.
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