Study Guide

A Birthday Religion

By Christina Rossetti

Religion

A heady combination of symbolism and biography make "A Birthday" a religious poem. Now, it's never the safest bet to confuse a poem's speaker with the poet him- or herself, but we'll make an exception in this case. We know, for example, that Christina Rossetti lived a devout life, publishing books about biblical scripture and Christian holidays. At the same time, we know that she used Christian symbols in a lot of her other poems (check out "Calling Card" for the deets). Sometimes, we admit, a peacock is just a peacock. But when it's in a Christina Rossetti poem, you better take a good look at that pretty little bird's religious significance.

Questions About Religion

  1. What is the nature of the speaker's relationship with God in this poem?
  2. What's the significance of the mythological reference in lines 5-6 in this otherwise Christian poem?
  3. Could there be another explanation for the decorative choices made in stanza 2, other than their religious significance? If so, what might it be?

Chew on This

The poem describes the religious conversion of someone who is born again, coming to the Christian faith after a period of time without it.

Through its reference to the halcyon bird, the poem equates Greek mythology with Christianity.

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