Tractarian poetry

The poetry of belief

Alongside the Tracts for the Times, the leaders of the Oxford Movement used poetry as a means of expressing their Anglican beliefs. Through their poems, they emphasised the doctrine of Reserve. By this, they meant a state whereby God's laws are hidden from all but the faithful. They also interpreted the Bible through a process called typology. This highlights the correspondence of the Old and New Testament, emphasising how Jesus came as a fulfilment of the prophecies that had been given in the Old Testament.

The Christian Year

In 1827, leading Tractarian preacher John Keble published a collection of poetry entitled The Christian Year. This volume is based upon the calendar of the Book of Common Prayer as it comprises one poem for each feast day of the church. Upon its publication, it met with immediate success and was widely read. Rossetti owned her own copy of the book, which she illustrated with carefully detailed drawings representing the characters of the poems.

The Cathedral and The Altar

Rossetti was also very much influenced by the volumes of poetry written by Tractarian leader Isaac Williams. The Cathedral (1838) and The Altar (1849) both reflect upon the nature and place of worship and use poetry as a means of expressing ecclesiastical concerns. In her later devotional poetry, Rossetti imagines the church building and emphasises the connections that the ritual practices performed inside have with interpreting the Bible and the doctrines of the Church.

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