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A BIRTHDAY - Christina Rossetti

Holiday English Project on one of the fourteen poems in this year's IGCSE English Literature syllabus

Simon Delos Reyes

on 8 October 2013

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Transcript of A BIRTHDAY - Christina Rossetti

Raise me a daïs of silk and down; 
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates, 
And peacocks with a hundred eyes; 
Work it in gold and silver grapes, 
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys; 
A BIRTHDAY - Christina Rossetti
'A Birthday'?
Rossetti feels as if she has been reborn into a new life, having the ability to see things in a different light, even with greater intensity and depth.

This celebration of a religious concept is scattered throughout the poem, hinting (possibly) at the idea of God's part in her spiritual revival.
(Additional) Strucure!
There are indentations in every second line. This not only represents an idea of continuation from the previous line...
"My heart is like an apple tree
whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;"
APPLE TREE gives the idea of fertility, tying back into the idea of being born again
in a biblical sense, it can also give the image of the Garden of Eden, where nature and human lived in ideal peace~~~
THICK-SET FRUIT suggests ripeness and abundance, like Rossetti's new-found life and love <3
"My heart is like a rainbow shell
that paddles in a halcyon sea;"
RAINBOWS (yay!) gives us the image of exuberant colour
Tying back to the Bible, God set a rainbow in the sky after the large flood (where he helped Noah), promising that such a thing would never happen again -----> SUGGESTS that God's promises are being fulfilled in Rossetti's life AND also suggests the cleansing of past relationships...
You may be asked to compare Christina's emotionally charged, descriptive poem to her brother's poem "The Woodspurge". In Dante Gabriel Rossetti's poem, his overwhelming depression is so "perfect" that he is essentially paralysed, unable to invest meaning into anything.
These poems are both based on the concept of the strength of emotion as well as pathetic fallacy (where one invests an emotion into an object) and the lack thereof.
"Sonnet: Composed upon Westminster Bridge" by William Wordsworth deals with the idea of describing the beauty of a particular City, where Wordsworth suggests there is a greater indescribable potential than what it shows.
"Pied Beauty" by Gerard Manley Hopkins, as well as "Horses" by Edwin Muir contain religious overtones that allude to God's influence and his part in the creation of, not only the larger things, but also in the little details in our world today.
... but also, the fact that the indentations mean that fewer words can be written down reflects that she struggles to completely express her feelings in writing. (I think) The word for this is alexithymia (USE IT! haha)
Lines by Lines! :D
"My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water'd shoot;"
the fact that the representation of her heart (the simile used to compare with a 'singing bird) is on a 'NEST' in a 'WATER'D SHOOT' suggests that Rossetti needs nothing else but this feeling of love...
... as NEST suggests a place of LIFE and SAFETY (like our homes)...
... and WATER suggests HEALTH (and that other Biology stuff, guys!)
HALCYON was a mythical bird that it "charmed the wind and waves so that the sea was especially calm during the [winter periods]"
this gives the feeling of tranquility and serenity...
... Rossetti combines these two ideas to form an image of dazzling colour floating upon gently-flowing water, appealing to both the sense of sight and touch, but as well as emotion.
This suggest a combination of factors resulting in her happiness and joy towards this new-found looooove <3
DAIS is a raised platform, commonly associated with the part of the church that is raised, where the altar or a communion table is placed
---> TYING BACK to idea of being reborn or having a new stage in one's life
SILK AND DOWN give us the feeling of luxury (and cuddly-softness), appealing to our sense of touch as well as suggesting the idea of love becoming quantified to express her emotions (in the second stanza) as opposed to qualified (such as in the first stanza)
VAIR - expensive squirrel fur --->SUGGESTS nobility and wealth,
PURPLE DYES - coloured dye that is associated to the monarchy
These two images tie back to the idea of Rossetti quantifying her love as a way to express the emotions that have come from said love <3

DOVES are traditionally linked to peace as well as to the church, alluding to (again) the Noah-flood story, where Noah sends a dove out. The dove comes back with an olive leaf in its beak, to symbolise the end of the flood.
it is also the representation of the HOLY SPIRIT such as in Jesus' baptism
POMEGRANATES give an idea of fertility, abundance and ripeness, tying back to her emotional influx as well as her being revitalised.
PEACOCKS also have the idea of fertility, and the fact that this particular peacock has 'a hundred eyes' gives an image of an all-seeing figure, such as God
GOLD and SILVER are precious metals associated with great wealth and royalty
FLEURS-DE-LYS are heraldic symbols derived from the lily and was often engraved on the armour of royalty
these tie back to previous ideas such as Rossetti's display of her emotion through tangible and physical representation.
You there! Yes, YOU! KEEP STUDYING! There's only like 3 slides left come on.
As a reward for studying this Prezi, I grant you this awesome audition
1. Compare and contrast the poems "A Birthday" by Christina Rossetti and "The Woodspurge" by D.G. Rossetti and show how they conveyed the intensity of their emotions.

2. Show how the structure in two poems you have studied helps these poets convey their respective ideas.

3. Show how Rossetti in "A Birthday" and Hopkins in "Pied Beauty" use imagery to convey the idea of the influence of a higher power in daily life.
Full transcript