Compare and contrast ‘Cousin Kate’ and ‘The Birthday’ by Christina Rosseti.

Authors Avatar


Assignment 3 – Poetry

Compare and contrast ‘Cousin Kate’ and  ‘The Birthday’ by Christina Rosseti.

Your response should explore the meaning of each poem, the similarities and differences between the poems and the impact they have on you.


Christina Rosseti was an 19th century poet. She was born in London on the 5th December 1830 to Gabriele and Frances Rosseti. In 1848 she became engaged to James Collinson, one of the pre-Raphaelite brethren. The engagement fell through when he became Roman Catholic. From the early 1860’s on she was in love with Charles Cayley but refused to marry him because he was not a Christian and Milk-and-water Anglicanism was not to her taste. She was proud of her expertise at the game of chess that she liked to win but felt guilt at taking pleasure in winning. So she gave up chess because she enjoyed it so much. She also pasted paper strips over the antireligous parts of Swinburne’s Atalanta in Calydon; objected to nudity in paintings, especially if the artist was a women; and refused to go see Wagner’s Parsifal, because it celebrated a pagan mythology.


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.

The simile used in the first verse are all derived from beauty as it might be seen to be expressed in nature. The poem is all joyful and uplifting. In view of the poet’s evangelical christian convictions it seems likely that the ‘love’ referred to is the ‘agape’ love referred to in the New Testament rather than sexual or romantic love. And that this was the poet’s intention.   However  a powerful repressed erotic component  can be easily  attributed to this verse. For example, if the term ‘heart’ is substituted, then comparisons to ‘watered shoot’s, ‘thickset fruit’ and ‘rainbow shells’ have a powerful sexual element. In that fruit is only produced by a plant for reproduction. On the other hand, taken at face value the poem has a lyrical ‘brightness’. Possibly in an era when Victorian sexual prudery is widely believed to mask  desperate sexual repression dark and lustful motives are found where none actually exist.

Join now!

Raise me a dais of silk and down;

Hang it with vair and purple dyes;

Carve it in doves and pomegrantes,

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.

In the second verse the imagery becomes more religious, and perhaps more sinister.  The ‘dias’ described sound like the exotic trappings of royalty as described in the old testament, particularly when associated with the colour purple. Although the furniture described may seem to resemble a ...

This is a preview of the whole essay