Study Guide

A Birthday Appearances

By Christina Rossetti

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  Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit; (4)

The apple tree is described in visual terms here. Its appearance is one that suggests fertility and plenitude.

My heart is like a rainbow shell (5)

A rainbow shell heart? We be there's a t-shirt or 50 with this same design on it. The colorful visual here communicates the speaker's inner joy.

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; (9-12)

At first, we'd forgive you if you thought there was some pretension behind the speaker's decorative tastes. Silk, down, fur, and purple? That's some pretty over-the-top design right there. She's quick to add the Christian symbols, though, which reminds us that this dais is not just some kind of conversation piece for her living room. It's meant to visually represent the place that God has assumed in her life.

Work it in gold and silver grapes,
  In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys; (13-14)

The gold and silver, plus the grape and fleur-de-lys symbols, put the finishing touches on the dais's impressive—and religiously resonant—visuals.

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