JULIE STRAIGHT BARRETT PUBLISHED THE SERAPHIM AND OTHER POEMS IN 1838, the title poem, in which two angels witness and discuss the Crucifixion, provoked an energetic attack from The Examiner: "The subject of her present poem has been chosen with an unhappy want of judgment," the reviewer pronounced, explaining that "religion, or what is exclusively understood by `sacred subjects,' is not fit for poetry, except on very rare and brief occasions."1 Other reviewers also objected to the poem's theme, point of view, and explicit discussion of religious topics. For example, the North American Review pronounced Barrett's subject "an awful theme, which would task the highest powers, and from which the highest powers would do well to recoil. . . . It appears to us an unqualified failure" (BC, 6:376), and the Arcturus, while approving of her more "earthly" poems, commented that "we are not at home in speculating on the minds of angels" (BC, 5:388). Critics today have made progress in accepting Barrett's religious subject matter. David Riede has discussed the importance of Barrett's Christianity to her sense of vocation, and Dorothy Mermin has recognized Christianity's importance to her sense of poetic authority, saying that Barrett "used Christianity
Victorian Poetry – West Virginia University Press
Published: Jan 6, 2000
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