Explore the ways in which strong emotions caused by love are presented in A Birthday and Memory, poems by Christina Rossetti

EXAMPLE INTRODUCTION:Birthday may be considered among one of Rossetti’s most lively, expressive and passionate poems - a refreshing change from her usual style seen in the poetry collection. The poem, although named A Birthday, may be read as an allegory for a relationship - ‘Birthday’ a metaphorical expression of the speaker’s reflection on this moment and the strong emotions that accompany the love conveyed. Whether the speaker’s love is mortal or divine depends on interpretation and may be affected by the religious context of reception. “the Rossetti women came under the influence of the Oxford Movement, with its increased emphasis on rituals”EXAMPLE PARAGRAPH DISCUSSING THEMATIC ELEMENTS OF THE POEM:It may be argued that Rossetti’s poem explores the idea that emotions caused by love may be so intense that they cannot be adequately expressed in terms of human experiences. As is conventional of much of the poet’s work, Rossetti uses repetition; in A Birthday repetition of the simile ‘like a’ is used to draw comparisons between the speakers loving emotions and the beauty of the natural world. Alliteration of ‘boughs are bent’ and other images of health and vibrancy such as ‘a water’d shoot’ convey a sense of the speaker’s contentment that may be inferred as a result of ‘my love’ - the frequency of alliteration emphasises the flowing pace and rhythm creating an increased sense of harmony. Idyllic natural imagery of ‘fruit’ and ‘rainbow shell’ adds a colourful dimension to the poem and reflects the contemporary movement of Pre Raphaelite art and poetry, which focused on small details of nature. Furthermore, typical Religious iconography of ‘halcyon sea’ refers to the calm following the storm in Noah’s Ark, and the enticing, beautiful nature of the ‘apple-tree’ in the Garden of Eden - images that demonstrate the poet’s religious fervour, as a devoted member and worshipper at the High Anglican church. These religious symbols would have certainly been appreciated by a predominantly religious Victorian audience who would therefore understand the intensity of emotion being expressed due to ‘love’. However, following ‘all of these’ descriptions, the speaker's ‘heart is gladder’ still, perhaps expressing the idea that even the allure of the natural world is not equivalent to her love. Thus although initially there is some ambiguity (typical of Rossetti’s poetry) as to whether the relationship depicted is between two lovers or a worshipper and God, it may be argued that the penultimate line of the first stanza presents the speaker’s love as holy - a love in God, as religious love is seen to transcend the human world. Regardless, Rossetti presents the intensity of emotions caused by love with an undeniable fervour that would be appreciated in any context, religious or secular, contemporary or modern.

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