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Litotes

A deliberate understatement for effect; the opposite of hyperbole. For example, a good idea may be described as “not half bad,” or a difficult task considered “no small feat.” Litotes is found frequently in Old English poetry; “That was a good king,” declares the narrator of the Beowulf epic after summarizing the Danish king’s great virtues. See also Irony.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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