Summary and Analysis of A Birthday by Christina Rossetti: 2023

About the Poet:

Christina Rossetti (5 December 1830- 29 December 1894) was an English writer who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems during her time. The sister of Pre-Raphaelite writer-artists Dante Gabriel and William Rossetti, she was gifted with heights of creative powers. Although she was educated at home, it was her mother who had studied well-known religious works, classics, fairy tales, and novels of her time. Some of her most famous works include “Goblin Market” and “Remember.”

Introduction to A Birthday:

Rossetti, in this poem, speaks of the birthday of her love and all the emotions that she wishes to express with its arrival. She compares her delight to a bird singing in its nest, to an apple tree that’s bent with the thickest fruits, and to a rainbow shell in the wide ocean. Her loudest and deepest joys of her love’s birthday are what is mentioned in this poem.

The setting of A Birthday:

The poem is a projection of her happiness at the nearing of the birthday of her love. She narrates this poem before the special date to denote her elation with the closing of the big birthday she has been waiting for for long. She has a lot of preparations in mind to celebrate the birthday, which she expresses in this poem beautifully.

Poetic Devices in A Birthday:


Line 4: “My heart is like a rainbow shell
                That paddles in a halcyon sea;”
Line 7: “Work it in gold and silver grapes,”
Line 8: “Because the birthday of my life”


Line 1: “My heart is like a singing bird 
               Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;”
Line 2: “My heart is like an apple-tree 
               Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit; “
Line 3: “My heart is like a rainbow shell 
               That paddles in a halcyon sea;”
Line 4: “My heart is gladder than all these 
                Because my love is come to me.”

Style of A Birthday:

My heart is like an apple-tree
                  Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit; (A)
My heart is like a rainbow shell 
                  That paddles in a halcyon sea; (B)
My heart is gladder than all these 
                  Because my love is come to me. (B)

Summary of A Birthday:

Rossetti wishes to describe her anxiety and joy at her love’s birthday with this poem. Her heart is as elated as a bird in its cozy nest and as a lush apple tree that is bent with the ripest of apples. She cannot hold back her excitement and hence writes this poem as an expression of her happiness. It is clear that regardless of whom the “love” represents, the narrator feels extreme joy at his or her arrival. Her poem could be the symbolism of the arrival of spring, deciphered after all the comparisons that she relates her elation to.

Critical Analysis of A Birthday:

The poem is all about Rossetti’s views on the nearing of the birthday of her loved one. She describes the intense emotions of her heart, comparing herself to many joyful instances and objects. This reflects the intense emotions felt by any other individual whose loved one has his or her birthday dated close by. Through these similes, the narrator attempts to express her joy about the arrival of her love. This “love” could be a man, but this is unlikely. It is probable that her “love” is somehow connected to her Christian faith. The love could represent Easter and the arrival of spring, which signals rebirth and rejuvenation.

Central Idea of A Birthday:

This poem by Rossetti is all about the birthday of an individual and the emotions that run through the mind of their loved one. Rossetti talks about her emotions resonating with the birds that sing in its nest and the apple tree that is bent with fruit. She wishes to decorate her home at the arrival of what could possibly seem to signify spring.

The tone of the poem:

Rossetti begins her poem as she compares the elation of her heart to the singing bird at its nest, a lush tree bent from all the heavy and ripened fruit, and lastly, like a rainbow shell that swims across the sea. She later goes on to describe the vision of decoration that she wishes to create around her, like hanging ribbons of silk and carving peacocks with a hundred eyes, all for the sake of celebrating the birthday of her love.


Rossetti’s poem deals with all the celebratory emotions felt by a close well-wisher on the day of her loved one’s birthday. It is a poem of elation and joy to define the joy a cheering soul feels when such an occasion arises. The poem “A Birthday” teaches the reader to acknowledge the beauty in the soulful happiness felt between the relationships of any two given people.
Contributor: Deeksha Honawar

Grammar, spelling, and FAQs were updated by Anjali Roongta on 29th April 2023.

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Frequently Asked Questions

The tone of the poem is one of delight and love.

Similes and alliterations have been used in "A Birthday."
About the author

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