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Litanic Verse I

Origines, Iberia, Slavia et Europa Media

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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 first volume focus on the origins of the Litany (the Near East, Greece, Byzantium, Rome), as well as the emergence of litanic verse in the Iberian languages (Castilian, Catalan, Galician, Portuguese) and Slavic and Central European literatures (Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Serbian, Russian).

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“Krleš! Krleš! Krleš!” Litany and its Derivatives in Czech Literature to the 1930s

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The beginnings of litanic verse in Czech-Moravian culture go back to the Christianization of Great Moravia. Two monuments of old Slavonic literature produced in this period contain litanic forms. Song nine from Hymns for the Feast of Cyril the Philosopher ends with a series of four apostrophes to Cyril (periphrastically called a “sweet teacher,” “quiet speech,” “merciful heart,” and “the wisest thought”1), rounded off with a plea for an intercessory prayer. A longer litanic fragment appears in a prose work entitled Words in Praise of St. Cyril, the Teacher of the Slavic Nation by Clement of Ohrid. The twelve sentences which make up this eulogistic fragment fall into two parts: the first part begins with an anaphoric “I bless” and moves on to enumerate various body parts (lips, tongue, face, the saint’s eyes, etc.), often accompanied by an epithet; the second part, which begins with a relative pronoun, names a blessing given by Cyril to the speaker.2 The personal tone turns the litanic fragment — despite its rhetoric — into a passionate prayer.

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