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European Litanic Verse

A Different Space-Time


Witold Sadowski

This fifth volume in the Litanic Verse series is centered upon the poetics of European litanic verse (genre structure, rhythm, rhetorical figures), as well as its philosophy and cosmology, with a particular focus on the space-time matrix within which the litanic world is depicted. The content of the book moves beyond an analysis of enumerations and parallelisms as it provides an insight into relevant cultural processes, including the history of religion and literary conventions from Antiquity to Early Modernity. This allows seemingly distant topics, such as comparative versification and European identity, to be related. Theoretical considerations are accompanied by examples mostly taken from Latin, English, French, German, Iberian, Italian, Scandinavian and Slavic poetry.

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1 Ancient Experiments with the Metrical Litany


As has already been mentioned, efforts at incorporating the litany into European versification began in Antiquity, as can be illustrated by a hymn to Christ which closes Clement of Alexandria’s treatise, Christ, the Educator, dating from the end of the second century. This relatively short song is a meeting point between two conventions of versification. Its dual composition gives the lie to the assumption that a system of versification is a transparent form, for the overlap between the two conventions allows us to see the signs that indicate the origin of each. It is enough to quote a short passage:

Βασιλεῦ ἁγίων,

λόγε πανδαμάτωρ

πατρὸς ὑψίστου,

σοφίας πρύτανι,

στήριγμα πόνων


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