Christina Rossetti’s poetry is often a little melancholy, a little sad, a little wistful perhaps, so it is great to be able to feature one of her poems which bursts with joy and exuberance. It is a poem dealing with the exhilaration of being in love (rather than the suffering which we saw in the poem by Garcia Lorca posted here).
When we see the title, ” A Birthday” we might imagine that it is actually about the poet’s birthday, or the birthday of someone close to her. But no, we find that being in love is a re-birth, a new birthday for her, hence the outpouring of excitement and wonder.
My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me.
Raise me a dais 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;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.
The first wo words give a clue as to what is to come, “My heart” might be uplifted by a normal birthday or by the beauty of the world, but it is more likely to be the destination of the emotions of love. In fact, this is reinforced by the first four couplets, each of which begins “My heart is like…”, accumulating the images of beauty, abundance and contentment. A singing bird, an apple tree laden with fruit, a rainbow -these are all beautiful and gladdening things, but the poet’s heart is even gladder because her love has appeared.
The second half of the poem expresses the poet’s feelings in a different way. She wishes for a dais hung with silk and precious down ,magnificently carved with images if luxury, with gold and silver everywhere. Such a place would be a worthy platform from which to proclaim to the world that she is in love.
I think she must have been really in love…
The Poetry Dude