Abirthday by Christina Rossetti


‘A birthday’ by Christina Rossetti was written to express her emotions of happiness and new life after finding her true love. The title ‘A birthday’ is ambiguous, she does this deliberately to mislead the reader and introduce a new idea to the mean of having a birthday. At first sighting of the title must readers would assume that the poem is based on some one celebrating their birthday; however the actual meaning behind it is she feels reborn and happy after finding the love of her life.

By hiding its message Rossetti was able to create suspense for the reader and only by reading the poem with in dept was readers able to understand the real meaning of the title. The poem is split into two stanzas, the first stanza talks about how the relationship effects her and her emotions and the second stanza she talks about what is going to happen now that her love has come to her.

The poem splits after eight lines because she wanted readers to wait for along time before she talks about her love coming to her, she did this intentionally because she wanted readers to visualise what it felt like for her to wait and wanted to remind them that she also had wait a very long time for her love to come. During the Victorian era many writers like Rossetti were forbidden to include any adultery in their writing so therefore Rossetti used euphemism to implicate her feelings. .In the first stanza, Rossetti expresses happiness by comparing her love to a number of bright and colourful things in nature that are full of life.

Rossetti opens ‘A Birthday’ in lines one and two with the comparison of her heart with a ‘singing bird. ’ This first analogy suggests pure happiness and energy because the voice of a bird that uses energy to sing is usually a joyful sound with which one can feel a sense of happiness. When she compares herself to a “watered shoot,” which is also known as a sprout from a plant, she is implying that she feels as if she were just born. In line three and four she compares her heart to an ‘apple tree. ’ The reference to the apple tree suggests a happy condition because the branches are so bent with life-bearing fruit.

In theses two lines she is implying that her relationship is fruitful and sweet, and it also refers to a biblical reference: Adam and Eve. There are two different interpretations to this quotation; by saying that her relationship is fruitful and sweet, she is able to imply that she will have lots of children but because she could not write it so straight forward, she had to use the fruitful imagery as a softer and more appropriate language to get her idea across without being direct. The other interpretation to this quotation is her relationship was a destiny; God planned for them to be together.

Like Adam and Eve, he created her and her partner to be a pair; they are destining to be with each other. In this quotation she also mentions the word ‘thick’, meaning hard and strong, indicating that her relationship is strong and is unbreakable. In lines five and six she compares her heart to a ‘rainbow shell. ’ The rainbow shell in the halcyon, or peaceful, sea indicates that all is well with her world, or her love is like a smooth sailing boat, nothing to cause disruption for her relationship. The rainbow shell can represent a miracle, or represent an endless love or happiness because the rainbow is colourful.

One other way to analyse this quotation is that at the end on a rainbow there is always a gold pot, the gold pot that she is referring to could be her lover; her lover is the gold in her life. In the last two lines of the first stanza Rossetti compares all of the natural items listed to her heart all at once. ‘My heart is gladder than all these, because my love is come to me. ’ These two lines tells us that her heart is, in fact, in an even more happy condition than all three natural things it has been compared with so far.

The final line of the first stanza allows the reader to infer that this feeling that she is experiencing is not because it is her birthday, it is because the person she love has come to her. Three of the comparisons that she has written of in the first stanza are similes, however as she reaches the end, she used a metaphors instead of a simile. By using this device she is able to signify to readers that her feelings are growing stronger and stronger as the poem progresses In the second stanza she stops comparing her love to nature; instead she begins to talk about extravagant surroundings decorated with sensual materials.

These items suggest that preparations be made to receive her love. In the first two lines of the second stanza she starts creating the imagery of having a wedding. ‘Raise me a dais of silk and down; Hang it with vair and purple dyes;’ The words ‘Raise’; meaning build up, ‘dais’; indicating to alter, ‘silk’; a sign of marriage, and ‘down’; another word for pillow, are all pointing to marriage. Also, ‘vair’; meaning curtains or veils and ‘purple’; a colour which is usually used in religious weddings, are used to create an image implying to readers that she is talking about a bed, contemplating a marriage.

Rossetti once again is using euphemism to get her idea across without being to obvious. She has cleverly structured these two phrases for readers to understand her meaning with out her having saying it. In lines eleven and twelve, Rossetti then goes on to illustrate her points even further by using more symbolising words such as ‘dove’; symbolise peace, meaning purity and possibly virginity, and ‘pomegranates’; a fruit – fruitful. ‘Peacocks with a hundred eyes;’ here she is referring to a male peacock, maybe indicating that it is her lover that she is talking about.

Here Rossetti could be suggesting that she is a virgin but she is willing to marry her lover and have lots of children with him. Moving on to lines 13 and 14 she once again talks about being fruitful, having lots of off-springs by mentioning ‘grapes’, and again the idea of marriage is also included ‘ gold and silver’ these to materials are used to make rings for a marriage. In the last lines of the poem, she says the ‘birthday of my life’ possibly meaning that she feels reborn now that her love has come to her.

Throughout the poem Rossetti uses a lot of biblical and natural references. She starts of the poem with a very joyful tone and carries it along with the poem. She uses a lot of similes in the first half of the poem such as ‘My heart is like a singing bird’ to evoke her senses, this particular simile is evoking her sense of hearing. Her poems often consisted of a songlike used word and short, irregular rhymed lines. However this poem has an 8 beat per line which makes it a very melodic poem.