MIMNERMUS' IMAGES OF YOUTH AND AGE

W. J. Henderson,

Abstract


The poet who created the most important ancient Greek elegiac poetry on the transience of
youth and love, and on the consequent necessity to enjoy youth and love while one could,
is Mimnermus of Colophon (end 7th century B.C.). Wolfgang Schadewaldt formulated his
contribution as follows: "Aber sein Aufruf zum GenuS der Jugend und ihrer naturgemii.6en
Gabe, der Liebe, ist die entschiedenste und in aller Zeitmiidigkeit auch kriiftigste
Folgerung jenes Grauens vor dem Nahen des Alters" (1933:295).1 In five fragments
Mimnermus deals with the beauty and joy of youth as opposed to the physical degeneration
and suffering of age in terms which portray existence after the passing of youth very
negatively, and which have brought on him the criticism of pessimism.2 Equally important
is his use of images to embody these themes. Bowra speaks of "his brilliant sustained
images" (1970:688) and several critics have written on this aspect of Mimnermus' poetry.
This article explores more closely the nature of Mimnermus' use of images in connection
with his treatment of youth and age, in order to highlight a previously unnoticed tendency
in the relationship between imagery and description.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/40-3-4-493

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