Analysis: Birthday by Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti was born in England in 1820 and died in 1894. She wrote this poem when she was twenty-seven. Perhaps nowadays she is more famous for her poem Remember and the words of the Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter.

The title of the poem makes sense when the final two lines of the poem are read. Here her
love coming to her is described as ‘the birthday of my life’.

The poem is saturated with sensuous vocabulary.
Unfamiliar words such as ‘dais’ and archaic words such as ‘vair’ are explained in the glossary. 

There is a clear contrast between the content of each stanza. The first deals with actual images of nature and the second with the artificial and exotic images of nature (e.g. ‘gold and silver grapes’).

The first stanza describes the extent of the speaker’s happiness. The final line makes it clear that she is happier than all the things she describes because her love is coming to her.
In the second stanza she wishes to immerse herself in rich and beautiful surroundings in order to celebrate her love coming to her.

How would you read the three imperative verbs which relate to the act of creating something (‘Raise’, ‘Carve’, ‘Work’) in the second stanza? What other features of sound can you identify, and what effects do they create?

Explore the idyllic natural images in the first stanza: of the singing-bird, apple-tree and rainbow shell. What do the words (and sounds) reveal about the speaker’s mood? Do they think this is all about happiness, as the last two lines of the first stanza would seem to suggest: ‘My heart is gladder than all these’?
Consider how Rossetti vividly conveys the exotic nature of the things she
describes in stanza two.

Note contrasts between the two stanzas, both in their content and style.
Compare the last two lines of each stanza. 

Thematic links with set poems
Nature: Pied Beauty, Horses, Hunting Snake, Pike, The Woodspurge, Summer Farm,
Where I Come From, Composed Upon Westminster Bridge
Religion: A Different History, Pied Beauty

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