Liturgical poetry

Kirsten Stirling

in The Oxford Handbook of John Donne

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199218608
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Liturgical poetry

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  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
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The focus of this article is liturgical poetry and the compositions of John Donne. The generic classification of Donne's poems on religious subject matter poses even more problems than questions of genre usually do. If ‘liturgical poetry’ is interpreted strictly, none of Donne's poems qualify for the category since none of them were actually part of the church liturgy; and to interpret the term liturgical ‘metaphorically’, as P. G. Stanwood does, ‘assign[ing] to it an aesthetic function which expresses the ordered movement of time in space’, is to lose sight of the specificities of what liturgical means. Metrical translations of the Psalms and other poetic parts of the Bible flourished in the sixteenth century and Donne participated in this movement, though not to a very large extent. Donne's religious poetry contains until the end a struggle between the individual and the collective voice. His speakers resist the dissolution of the self that seems to be implicit.

Keywords: poetry; liturgical poetry; Donne's religious poetry; Bible; Psalms; Metrical translations

Article.  4818 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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