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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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Transformations of Litany in Swedish Poetry: From the Middle Ages to the Modern Breakthrough (1100–1879)


The starting point of the analysis is the history of the Swedish litany as a form of prayer; some mention will also be made of the overlapping of genres, based on the litany and the song. The bulk of the chapter will be devoted to the relation between the litany and the Protestant psalm. Examples will be provided of those poetic works which are inscribed in the religious tradition, but are at the same time individual realizations of litanic prayer.

The Magic Formula and the Law Codes

We cannot ignore the fact that the rhythmical, alliterative and enumerative runic inscriptions or the Edda’s Icelandic poetry provided inspiration for medieval poets and for the exegetes who wrote commentaries on prayers addressed to Christ and the saints. In an attempt to find litanic traces in Swedish culture, we can also recall the custom of furnishing graves with bronze or iron tablets inscribed with runic charms: they were supposed to protect the living against demons returning to Earth.1 As the Christian faith began to take hold, the magical formulae gave way to apostrophes to Christ, the Virgin Mary and the saints.2 The saints, especially Mary, also appear in folk charms and spells based on incantations: they are connected with ploughing and other field work, health and sickness and giving birth. Such forms, which occupy the middle ground between a charm and prayer, ← 231 | 232 → use stylistic devices characteristic of the litany, such as apostrophes, repetitions, and parallelisms.3...

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