Christina Rossetti-A Birthday-Notes

Christina Rossetti – ‘A Birthday’

This wonderfully happy poem was written when the English poet Christina Rossetti was 27 years old, and expresses the tremendous joy and excitement that you may feel when you see or meet the person you truly love. Why, you may wonder, is it called ‘A Birthday’? Well, look what the poet writes in line 15, when she says that her love coming to her is “the birthday of my life”, the day, she suggests, when her life really begins.

Everything in the first stanza speaks of the happiness she sees around her, and the repeated expression ‘My heart is like . . . ‘ stresses this joy, but she says at the end of the first stanza that she is even happier than all of these things – why? The second stanza says that she would like to surround herself with the richest and most exotic things to celebrate the arrival of “my love”. Look at how the language changes between each stanza – in the first (apart from the word ‘halcyon’) it is simple and easy, while in the second it is much richer and less everyday. Choose a few words from each stanza to illustrate and support this idea.

What is the effect of concluding the both stanzas with the same line?

You may like to compare this poem with ‘Song’, written when she was just 18 years old; in this she writes of the contrast between another woman’s true happiness, and her own sense that this cannot continue (how do we know this?):

She sat and sang always
By the green margin of a stream,

Watching the fishes leap and play Beneath the glad sunbeam.

I sat and wept always
Beneath the moon’s most shadowy beam,

Watching the blossoms of the May Weep leaves into the stream.

I wept for memory;
She sang for hope that is so fair:

My tears were swallowed by the sea; Her songs died on the air.

There are many love poems in this anthology, but you should particularly compare Rossetti’s poem with at least two others: Henry Baker’s ‘Love’ (page 55) and John Clare’s’ First Love’ (page 131). Of these three, which seems to you most successfully to recreate the sense of young and truly innocent love? How does your choice succeed where the others do not?

Some useful material on Christina Rossetti’s life and work can be found on the following websites:


10 thoughts on “Christina Rossetti-A Birthday-Notes

  1. Well there is also a contrast between the two stanzas. The first stanza focuses on the natural elements where as the second one is about exotic and royal things. The second one is quite materialistic. Also this poem is named as The Birthday because the poet has given birth to a new phase of her life. It’s the birth of her love.

  2. I believe this poem is not only about her “lover”, but it shows more of her love in religion. Christina is passionate for religion. This poem may be about her discovering her new self with God and how this caused her to be so happy. For example, most of the imagery used, “singing bird” and “apple-tree” come from the Song of Solomon, Old testament.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s