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Litanic Verse II

Britannia, Germania et Scandinavia


Edited By Witold Sadowski, Magdalena Kowalska and Magdalena Maria Kubas

The book contains comparative analyses of the development of litanic verse in European poetry, from medieval to modern times. Litanic verse is based on different syntactic devices, such as enumeration, parallelism, anaphora and epiphora. However, it is not to be seen merely as a convention of versification as the popularity of different variants of the verse in Europe reflects the religious, intellectual, social and political history of various European regions. The essays in the second volume focus on litanic verse in the Germanic languages. They discuss predominantly the literatures of Protestant countries (Great Britain, Denmark, Germany, Norway), but also Austrian poetry.

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“Thy name I sall ay nevyne”: Fifteenth-Century England and Scotland


Every poem can be considered in two ways — as what the poet has to say, and as a t h i n g which he m a k e s. From the one point of view it is an expression of opinions and emotions; from the other, it is an organization of words which exists to produce a particular kind of patterned experience in the readers.1

In A Preface to “Paradise Lost” C. S. Lewis talks about genre as being expressive of a certain worldview, but also as an artefact created by the poet to frame it, producing in the readers what he calls “a particular kind of patterned experience.” The poems analysed in this article are all patterned upon the litany: they use a spectrum of stylistic devices characteristic of litanies, without being primarily aimed at prayer themselves. They operate in the vocative mode in which “the poet addresses an individual or group in the second person, by a name, title, or other designation that establishes a relationship between the poet/narrator and the ostensible audience of the poem.”2 Poems written in this mode constitute a “call” or an “address”: they establish a relationship between subject and sovereign, petitioner and benefactor, or sinner and “Saviour.” The most common manners within this mode are celebration, praise, and praise-petition.

It is celebratory poems in praise of the Virgin Mary that I will focus upon — poems which are often a combination of petition and address, and...

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