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Litanic Verse II

Britannia, Germania et Scandinavia


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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Our Lady of Controversy: Defamiliarization of Litanic Verse in England between 1837 and 1937


One of the highlights of the exhibition “For Worship and Glory,” held at Hampton Court Palace in London (2013), was the exquisite collection of twelve embroideries illustrating the Litany of Loreto. In England, where the Marian cult was for ages a source of discord among various Christian denominations, such events are always thought-provoking. The embroideries date from the early twentieth century and bear the clear influence of the Pre-Raphaelite school of artists. This unique piece of ecclesiastical art seems to bear testimony to the coming of “the age of Mary” that Edward Bouverie Pusey, one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement, was warning against.1 The mid-nineteenth century, to a certain degree, did begin it. The litany, one of the forms of Marian devotion, was clearly on the march. No doubt the poetic reverberations of the Litany of Loreto are not the only examples of litanic verse in the Victorian poetry. This age, commonly known as the age of doubt, brought about an unexpected revival of the litanic tradition which continued well into the twentieth century. Surprisingly, in this period of over a hundred years, the single word ‘litany’ was used no less than seven times in the titles of poems by such various authors as Algernon Charles Swinburne (“A Litany,” “The Litany of Nations”), Arthur Symons (“A Litany of Lethe”), Lionel Johnson (“A Descant upon the Litany of Loreto”), Rudyard Kipling (“The Lover’s Litany”) and Hugh MacDiarmid (“The Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary”). This seems to...

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