Birds of Paradise

Golden-winged, silver-winged
     Winged with flashing flame,
Such a flight of birds I saw,
     Birds without a name:
Singing songs in their own tongue—
     Song of songs—they came.

     One to another calling,
          Each answering each,
     One to another calling
     In their proper speech:
High above my head they wheeled,
          Far out of reach.

On wings of flame they went and came
     With a cadenced clang:
     Their silver wings tinkled,
     Their golden wings rang;
The wind it whistled through their wings
     Where in heaven they sang.

     They flashed and they darted
     Awhile before mine eyes,
Mounting, mounting, mounting still,
     In haste to scale the skies,
Birds without a nest on earth,
     Birds of Paradise.

     Where the moon riseth not
     Nor sun seeks the west,
     There to sing their glory
     Which they sing at rest,
     There to sing their love-song
     When they sing their best:—

     Not in any garden
     That mortal foot hath trod,
Not in any flowering tree
     That springs from earthly sod,
But in the garden where they dwell,
     The Paradise of God.

Christina Georgina Rossetti
14 November 1864

12 Replies to “Birds of Paradise”

  1. I just want to thank you for bringing gems like this to our attention! Did you do the translation yourself? I plan on sharing it with my wife (and maybe even a blog post… it is just wonderful.)

  2. Hi Tom, You’re very welcome, and I hope your wife enjoys it too! If you click the “Poetry” link under “Categories” in the right column of any of my pages, you’ll find more of her poetry.

    I didn’t translate this one, actually. She wrote it in English. Christina Georgina Rossetti was the sister of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. She and the other siblings grew up in England, and most of her poetry is in English, though she did write quite a bit of Italian poetry as well. The edition of her poetry I have, The Poetical Works of Christian Georgina Rossetti, is a beautiful one in a lovely mottled caramel-colored leather, with gilt pages and details. The introduction and editing (variorum at the back, as I recall) was done by her brother William Michael Rossetti, who outlived both her and Dante, was a respected literary critic of the time, and possessed all their manuscripts. I think this one is the same edition.

    Christina was a very devout Christian, and this is apparent in her work, as well as the testimonies to her life from friends and family. She was very ill later in life with Grave’s Disease, and eventually died of cancer. Her work of these periods of illness is entirely luminous. For a view of her as a young lady, see her brother’s painting of the Annunciation, Ecce Ancilla Domini (“Behold, the handmaided of the Lord”), in which she was the model for the young Virgin Mary.

  3. I want to thank you for sharing this poem. It is one of my mother’s favourites. (She can still recite most of it at the age of 89!)
    I have been hunting for it for ages but could not track it down.

  4. Hi,
    I would be really thankful if I get this poetry’s (Birds of Paradise by Christina Georgina Rossetti) summary and its critical appreciation…

    Eagerly awaiting a prompt response,
    regards,
    Jyotsna

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