Valentine Poem: "A Birthday" by Christina Georgina Rossetti

A precocious poet and devout Anglican, Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894) refused two suitors, apparently for their lack of religious compatibility. She composed "A Birthday" in 1857 and published it in 1861; no record exists to say if the inspiration was ethereal or mammal.  Interpret it as you like. Rossetti's brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was a founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group which promoted poetry and painting, and which included one of Rossetti's ultimately unsuccessful suitors, James Collins.  Dante illustrated Christina's first poetry publication, Goblin Market, a tale for children ripe with adult interpretations.  Rossetti was the model for her brother's inaugual Pre-Raphaelite painting of "The Girlhood of Mary Virgin." She was also painted by Collins during their temporary engagement.  As her health declined, she settled down to a quieter life with her mother. (Some 21st-century poems for mom available here.)

(Archaic vocab: "vair" is a variegated type of squirrel fur, popular as a trim for heraldic robes in the Middle Ages.)

A Birthday
by Christina Georgina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a watered 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;
Hand 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.


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