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Litanic Verse II

Britannia, Germania et Scandinavia

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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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“O Lord, deliver us from trusting in those prayers”: Early Modern England

Extract



Since my imprisonment in my bed, I have made a meditation in verse, which I call a Litany; the word you know imports no other than supplication, but all Churches have one form of supplication by that name […]. Mine is for lesser chapels, which are my friends […].1

In a letter to Sir Henry Goodyer John Donne presents his own definition of a litany: he sees it not so much as a communal prayer, addressing wider issues, but as a private meditation in verse, aimed at his own friends (is meant “for lesser chapels”) and their individual needs. This shows that in the seventeenth century, poetry was imagined as something akin to prayer, even though it was not agreed whether prayer of a private or communal nature is best.

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