Christina Rossetti: Poems

Christina Rossetti: Poems Summary and Analysis of "Bird Raptures" (1876)


"Bird Raptures" praises the sublime beauty of night, epitomized by the nightingale's song. Rossetti asks the moon to rise and wake the nightingale so that the world can hear its "wordless tale." She requests the lark to wait until morning to sing so that she can fully enjoy the nightingale's song.


This poem contains three stanzas of five lines each, with an ABABB CBCBB DBDBB rhyme scheme. The first and third B rhyme of every stanza contains the word "nightingale," emphasizing its importance in the poem. The rhyme scheme also lends the poem a musical quality, almost like the warbling of a bird.

Celebrated poets like Keats and Homer frequently praised the nightingale's melodic song in their work. Poets have continued to use the nightingale's free and unique tune as a symbol of poetic inspiration. On the other hand, the nightingale can also invoke a tone of plaintive lament because of its frequent appearance in mythology as a symbol of death in war.

In this poem, Rossetti uses the nightingale as a symbol for the beauty of night and the natural world. Rossetti extols the virtues of the night instead of celebrating sunlight, which many poets of her time were wont to do. Although night often symbolizes danger and temptation for sin in Christian allegory, Rossetti finds evidence of God's grace in the darkness. Her repetition of the imperative "Make haste" emphasizes the intensity of her desire to commune with the beauty of night.

Rossetti's praise of the sublime is rooted in the Romantic appreciation of inexplicable phenomena in nature. While listening to the beauty of the nightingale, she forgets her earthly worries and is swept up in the beauty of the bird's song.