Christina Rossetti “A Birthday”

For the second day of National Poetry Month, I offer one of my all time favorite poems, “A Birthday” by English poet, Christina Rossetti.

A Birthday
By Christina Rossetti

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.

I often teach with this poem, because I know it by heart and love to look at the faces of young students when I’m reciting it for them. Nothing commands their attention better than a poem read from memory, a true performance. There are also so many visual images, and some strange and bizarre words that make us laugh (click through “vair” to see what I mean, poor Sciurus vulgaris).  The poem lends itself to fruitful discussions of simile and metaphor, and is a convenient opening for a lesson about how our bodies have feelings that our minds sometimes are afraid to articulate.

Drop me a comment about this poem, or share one of your own.

314px-Geoffrey_of_Anjou_Monument with vair lined mantle

Enamel effigy of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou on his tomb at Le Mans Cathedral, wearing a vair-lined mantel.


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