A Birthday - Christina Rossetti

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A Birthday - Christina Rossetti

Context
Christina Rossetti - Born in 1830, known for acerbic (sharp direct and outspoken) love poetry, vivacious (attractively lively) ballads (poem in short stanzas) and nursery rhymes. Became a devout Anglo-Catholic when she was about 14.

Poem - Written when Rossetti was 27yrs old in 1857 and expresses the tremendous joy and excitement you feel when you meet the one you love.

Title - A Birthday; celebration, spiritual rebirth, ambiguous misleading title deliberate to bring a new meaning of a birthday as we traditionally know it. 1st glance you would assume the poem is literally about a celebration of a birthday however the meaning behind it is she feels reborn after finding the love of her life.

Structure - Written in 2 octets, 8 syllables per line. The 1st octet uses imagery of nature, portraying the profusion (abundance (large quantity)) and fecundity (intellectual (reasoning and understanding) productivity of a creative imagination (creativity on a higher level) of her love, juxtaposed by the imagery of wealth and value in the 2nd octet showing how much her love is worth. 1st Stanza written in iambic tetrameter, this creates a songlike rhythm and means the stress falls on the word Heart. 2nd verse, 4 out of 7 lines begin with a trochee, the stress falls on the verbs ‘raise’, ‘hang’, ‘carve’ and ‘work’. By breaking out of the more regular structure in the 1st stanza, these trochees highlight the urgency of the speaker to create something new to celebrate the return or finding of her love.

Tone - The poem has a surprisingly exuberant lively tone which is quite a contrast to many of her other poems which almost always portray a sense of gloom and bleakness.

She was engaged twice but broke the marriage off due to religious beliefs, the poems images she uses are in or relating to the bible, so the poem may be interpreted as describing her love for god, and how she is fulfilled now she has truly found God....
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