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A Birthday -Christina Rossetti

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Allen Ma

on 26 September 2014

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Transcript of A Birthday -Christina Rossetti

A Birthday
-Christina Rossetti

Stanza Two
She tries again to express her emotions, this time with much more command and flair.
What is it all about?
Christina Rossetti's poem,
A Birthday
, is about the happiness and joy of life she is experiencing.
Structure and Form
The poem is clearly divided into two stanzas: the language of the first is experimental, the second- much more resolute.
Stanza One
The repetition of 'my heart is like a...' shows her eagerness to express herself.
This poem is different in tone and style to her other poems which tend to focus on grief and sadness.
The poem starts off by simply expressing her delight which she is experiencing, but ends in an exotic scene of mystical rapture.
Presentation by Y.Ma
The regular iambic tetrameter provides constant momentum for the poem, like orderly yet expressive music.
Note how the stress often falls on the word 'heart'. This reinforces the sincerity of heartfelt (pun?) joy.
The simplicity of her images: a singing bird, apple tree, watered shoot etc. show that happiness may come from small things in life.
After a multitude of similes which attempt to describe her overwhelming joy, the line 'Because my love is come to me' shows her inability to contain her emotions.
The use of exotic words like 'dais' and 'pomegranates' are ornate descriptions of the giddy ecstasy she has.
The repetition of imperatives: 'raise' 'hang' 'carve' 'work' shows the various ways beauty and happiness can be displayed.
The penultimate line echoes the title...could this 'birthday' refer to a transcendental vision of Christ's rebirth?
Comparisons with other poems
This poem can be compared with Hopkins' '
Pied Beauty
Both poems deal with the positive side of life, with '
Pied Beauty'
praising God for all his marvellous creations, and '
A Birthday
' describing happiness in life with a certain religious overtone.
This poem can also be compared with Wordsworth's '
Composed Upon Westminster Bridge
Both poems show the pleasure of living, namely seeing the beauty of the view from Westminster Bridge, and in '
A Birthday'
- delight at love, Christ's rebirth, or the happiness derived from living in general.
Contrasts with poems
Interestingly enough, '
A Birthday
' can be contrasted with '
The Woodspurge
' whose author was Dante Gabriel Rossetti, brother of Christina, and who was not known for his grief unlike Christina.
Essentially, the poems are opposites of each other in that '
The Woodspurge
' reflects on the true meaning of sadness, while
'A Birthday
' attempts to truly quantify happiness.
However, there are similarities: in '
The Woodspurge
' Dante's close attention to detail- 'ten weeds' mirrors Christina's simple observations eg. the apple tree.
Possible Essay Questions
How does form, structure and tone make 'A Birthday' memorable?
Choose one poem which contrasts 'A Birthday'. Explain the differences and explain what techniques the poets use that make the two poems different.
Compare 'Pied Beauty' with 'A Birthday'; in what ways are the poems similar and how is this conveyed?
Useful information
A reading of the poem:
Useful links:
Full transcript