Analyze the poem "Birthday" by Christina Rossetti. 

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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“Birthday” by Christina Rossetti portrays a beautiful love affair. The speaker can hardly contain her joy. The point of view is first person with the speaker sharing her feelings about her love and lover.

The poem was published in a magazine in 1861.  This was the Victorian Age in England.  Sex was not discussed publically and barely privately. Considered avant garde because of the subject matter, the poem actually became popular despite the time period. 

The tone of the poem is jubilant and happy. The poet employs comparisons, which provide the images describing her feelings about the love she feels for the person who has come into her life. 

1st stanza

The first verse provides several similes used to convey the depth of her feelings.

Similes/comparisons

  • Her heart to a song bird whose nest is found near the waterSinging to the bird is as natural as the heart beating.  To the speaker, her love feels the same.  It is as easy as breathing. 
  • Her heart to an apple tree filled with its fruit to the point of the limb nearly breaking.  The love she receives sustains her.
  • Her heart is like the rainbow seashell that is found in the calm sea.
  • She feels serene and tranquil when she is near her lover.

Her love surpasses all of these beautiful aspects of nature because of her lover coming into her life.

2nd stanza

Raise me a daïs of silk and down;

Hang it with vair and purple dyes…

Because the birthday of my life

Is come, my love is come to me. 

In the second verse, the speaker asks for a platform to be made of soft materials…essentially she describes a bed…

  • On the bed hang the ornamental squirrel fur dyed in purple.
  • Carve the wood supports with doves and pomegranates and peacocks with the beautiful tail feathers with the eyes.
  • Work into the wood grapes and their leaves in gold and silver
  • Also use the French heraldic emblem called the fleurs-de-lys which comes from the lily

Make this beautiful [marriage] bed for her lover and her since this day is the beginning of the speaker’s life.  It is her symbolic birthday because her love has come to her.   

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