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;
Well, if you were hoping to learn more about the beloved's identity, you're just going to have to hurry up and wait.
Instead of revealing the beloved's identity, this new stanza starts off with a bunch of commands being made by our speaker.
It's not really clear for whom these commands are meant, but what is clear is that our speaker's got some things she wants done around here.
Well, really she just wants one thing done, but it's a pretty involved job.
The first step is to build the speaker a "dais" (a short platform where a throne or altar might sit) and decorate it with silk and bird feathers ("down").
Got it so far? Good, because when that's done, whoever's working on this project needs to cover the dais with "vair," which is a type of fur (actually squirrel fur—ew) that was used to trim old fancy clothes. Also, it needs to be decorated with purple color.
Purple is a color that's typically associated with royalty. This speaker wants this thing tricked out.
And she's still not done. To top it all off, the speaker wants the platform decorated with carvings of doves, pomegranates, and hundred-eyed peacocks.
It sounds pretty swanky, but what's up with that last request? If you think it sounds like a bunch of random choices, get ready for a giant slice of symbolism.
The dove, you might know, was a sign to Noah in the Bible that the great flood was receding. It's since become both a symbol of peace and a sign of God's love for humanity.
The other bird here is the peacock. If you've ever checked one out, you probably know that it doesn't literally have one hundred eyes. That's just a figurative way to describe its tail, which is decorated with spots that do kind of look like eyes.
This resemblance was not lost on early Christians, who built upon the legend that said a peacock's flesh would never decay. As such, the peacock became a symbol of immortality, everlasting life, and Jesus's resurrection. Its tail, meanwhile, came to represent God's all-knowing, all-seeing power.
For these reasons, the peacock was a popular decoration on Christian tombs and the like.
Finally, the decorations of pomegranates sound a lot like the carvings on the pillars of the palace of King Solomon, at least according to the description in the biblical Book of Kings. Is this a coincidence? Probably not—it's likely got more to do with the fact that red color of the pomegranate is symbolic of Jesus's death and sacrifice for humanity.
Given these decorating choices, then, we have a thought or two about who the speaker's "love" might be.
Before we dive in, though, let's see if the rest of the poem gives any more hints…
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.
We get more instructions in these final lines.
The speaker's not done decorating, it turns out. She wants silver and gold grapes to cover the dais, as well as "fleurs-de-lys."
She wants these things stamped into silver and gold "leaves." She's not talking about trees here. A "leaf," in decorative terms, is a thin sheet of precious metal, like gold or silver—something you'd use to cover a dais.
Again, our symbolism alarm is going off. In Christianity, grapes (and wine, which is made from grapes) is used to symbolize the blood of Christ and His sacrifice for humanity.
By the same token, a "fleur-de-lys" is a sign meant to represent a lily flower, which is associated with purity and the Virgin Mary.
This dais is one symbolic work of art—and with some pretty religious overtones.
The speaker wraps things up with a refrain that reminds us that her love has arrived.
Just before she does, though, she lets us know that her love is also "the birthday" of her life. A-ha—so that explains the poem's title (as does "What's Up with the Title?").
This last note seems to confirm what we've been suspecting all along: the speaker's beloved is none other than G-O-D.
After all, in religious terms, God is the force and purpose behind all life. In that way, He's responsible for every birthday ever.
The speaker seems to be recognizing this when—amid all the Christian symbolism—she describes the arrival of her own "birthday."
Put the cake and candles away, y'all. The speaker's not getting a year older here. She's welcoming the presence of God into her life. (And, for the record, that's "presence," not "presents.")