Christina Rossetti

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How does Christina Rossetti explore the concept of attaining and preserving happiness?

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In many of her poems, Christina Rossetti explores the idea of finding and holding on to happiness by equating finding happiness with finding love. Rossetti also explores the idea that trying to hold on to and capture happiness is a difficult and perhaps even futile endeavor.

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In her poem "In an Artist's Studio," Rossetti describes an artist who once found happiness in a woman he loved, but then lost it again. The artist tries to recapture and hold on to that same happiness by painting the woman's portrait over and over again. Indeed, the speaker remarks...

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that just "one face looks out from all his canvases." The speaker also says that the artist "feeds upon" the face of the woman in the paintings. Thismetaphor suggests that the woman's face is like nourishment and sustenance to the artist. He is able, with each painting, to recapture a little of the happiness he once felt with the woman. The fact that he must keep painting the woman's face over and over again implies, however, that he only manages to hold on to this happiness for a short time. The point that Rossetti is making in this poem is that happiness is found through love, but once the object of that love has gone, any effort to recapture that love is ultimately futile.

In "A Birthday," Rossetti again explores the idea that finding love is synonymous with finding happiness. However, unlike the artist in the previous poem, the speaker in "A Birthday" is able to hold on to her happiness because the object of her love is still with her. Indeed, at the end of the first stanza, the speaker proclaims, "My heart is gladder...Because my love is come to me." In the second stanza of the same poem, the speaker asks that a dais be made to memorialize the love and happiness which she feels at that moment. She wants the dais to be decorated with images of "doves and and silver grapes." Like the artist in the previous poem, the speaker in "A Birthday" feels the need to memorialize the love and happiness in her life. Perhaps this need to memorialize love and happiness indicates an awareness that love and happiness can only ever be temporary.

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