Christina Rossetti: Poems

Christina Rossetti: Poems Summary and Analysis of "A Birthday" (1861)


The narrator of "A Birthday" expresses her delight about her love's upcoming birthday. The narrator, who most likely voices Rossetti's own views, compares her heart to various things in nature. She uses the images of a songbird, a fruit-laden apple-tree, and a rainbow to express the depth of her love. She asks for an elaborate golden throne carved in wood. She joyfully exclaims that the birthday of her love and her life has arrived.


Rossetti divides this sixteen- line poem into two eight-line stanzas, each with an irregular rhyme pattern.

The narrator expresses the fullness of her heart upon the occasion of her love's birthday by starting every comparison in the first stanza with "My is heart is like". Rossetti's use of anaphora, evident in the repetition of this line, emphasizes the narrator's inability to articulate her joy through language. She continues to search for an appropriate simile for her feelings, using symbols that invoke images of celebration and happiness. The laden apple-tree promises the nourishment of fruit. The rainbow signifies God's promise to Noah and mankind that he will not flood the earth again.

Through these similes, the narrator attempts to express her joy about the arrival of her love. This "love" could be a man, but this is unlikely. It is probable that her "love" is somehow connected to her Christian faith. The love could represent Easter and the arrival of Spring, which signals rebirth and rejuvenation. The images in this poem could certainly pertain to the arrival of spring.

Rossetti frequently refers to the Second Coming of Christ as the ultimate "birthday" in her work. The Second Coming is central to the Christian faith, because it symbolizes the new kingdom replacing the old Earth. In her description of the purple throne, Rossetti draws upon the imagery of the Temple of Jerusalem from the Old Testament, which represents God's presence on Earth.

It is clear that regardless of whom the "love" represents, the narrator feels extreme joy at his or her arrival. A singing bird uses melody to express itself similar to the way that humans use words. Similarly, the narrator reveals the longing of her heart with the freedom of a bird. She personifies the other objects, imbuing them with human capabilities and emotions. This connection between nature and the divine common amongst Pre-Raphaelite poets and artists.