Vol I No. 2

John Donne's Litany

David K. Anderson

In the winter of 1609, stricken with painful and protracted neuropathy, John Donne was forced to endure “imprisonment in bed.” (1) It is unsurprising that Donne, for whom poetry had become a form of prayer, should in such a moment try his hand at a poetic litany. He had pressing reasons to supplicate God: debilitating pain, the possible approach of death, and a years-long struggle to raise a growing family in a state of poverty that hardly merited the qualifier “genteel.”

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