A Litany in Time of Plague
Thomas Nashe’s poem, “A Litany in Time of Plague” is one that must be closely looked at to be fully appreciated. This meaningful poem is concerned with death and is a stand out work due to its structure, word choice, and what it means to relay to the reader. The poem also has characteristics that make it unique. Both the structure and word choice that Nashe uses, help to set this poem apart from other works from this time. The poem is made up of six stanzas, each adhering to the rhyme scheme of A-A-B-B-C-C-D. This implemented rhyme scheme makes it so that when the poem is read, it possesses a smooth flowing movement. Within the poem, each stanza keeps the same two ending lines, “I am sick I must die/God have mercy on us!” It could be determined that every stanza must come to the same end much like every human life must meet the same fate—a driving theme of the poem. The poem contains precise and yet very simple language compared to some other works that appeared at this time. This choice in language can be attributed to the desire for common understanding. All those hearing this work after its release could easily interpret and understand the subject matter which is quite fitting seeing as though the subject matter applied to all. Also, the poem contains lines of solid thoughts which could be seen as being more accessible to readers, there isn’t much room for misinterpretation or anything that could be seen as a significant source of confusion. Overall, the poem comes off as very straightforward. The ingenious duality of the poem is something that can be easily overlooked. Nashe crafts his work to be both a litany type, prayer as the title states, and a rich poem. Although litanies tend to be a tedious recital of religious leaders using verses as cues for the people to respond with the appropriate response, Nashe’s own litany deserts the dry qualities of the conventional litany through its use of precise and cunning detail put forth...
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