The Use of Decay & Beauty in "Stella’s Birthday"

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1015 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Jan 21, 2020

Words: 1015|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Jan 21, 2020

Does the acceptance of either help the speaker accept the fate of time and aging in the poem? Explain why or why not. “Stella’s Birthday” and the “Good Old” Life for the average person is a cycle and consists of a few stages, starting with birth and childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age followed by death. Not everyone is satisfied with their lives when they finally start to see the end coming as old age approaches them.

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However, there are always those lucky people that see the world different and embrace all that is left and cherish the past. A poet named Jonathan Swift wrote a poem called “Stella’s Birthday” dedicated to a dear friend of his that was in bad health and approaching the end of her days. This dedicated poem is about his caring tribute to her expressing how wonderful and important she was to his life. She brought him joy and happiness, the ups and downs, and most importantly, an unforgettable figure that will always stay in his heart even after death has set them apart. Swift explains in his poem how accepting reality is not always a bad thing.

Acceptance of old age brings up the article “Menopause is the “Good Old” Women’s Thoughts about Reproductive Aging” written by Heather E. Dillaway at Wayne State Uni. This study discusses about how feminist researchers came to the conclusion that women find menopause as a positive experience overall. Although aging and beauty both play a part in life, Jonathan Swift’s “Stella’s Birthday” and Dillaway’s article about the “Good Old” focuses on the optimistic side of both themes even when age decay is upon them. In “Stella’s Birthday,” the theme of aging comes into play when Swift refers to his old age along with Stella’s bad health. In the first stanza, he says “Which can, in spite of all decays, Support a few remaining days: From not the gravest of divines Accept for once some serious lines.” Swift does not mind the reality of decay but accepts it and sees well for his remaining days.

The second stanza, “Although we now can form no more Long schemes of life, as heretofore; Yet you, while time is running fast, Can look with joy on what is past” supports the idea of aging. Old age interferes with creating more lively events but that doesn’t stop them from enjoying the wonderful memories of their past. Due to the normal stages of a woman's reproductive life cycle, the ceasing of menstruation or the menopause is inevitable when old age approaches. Menopause usually occurs around the age of 50 and according to Heather Dillaway’s article the “Good Old,” individuals actually find menopause as a positive experience. Both theme of age and beauty correlate when it comes to old age. This can be seen in the article “Good Old” when it states, “Because activities like sex continue, aging individuals may not feel old… women finally engage in sex the way “they should have … as younger people”” (Dillaway, 400). These individuals feel younger and more beautiful when they interact in activities like normal.

In “Stella’s Birthday,” the theme of beauty comes from the wonderful kindness and warmth that Swift witnessed from her, and he embraced it all his life and wouldn’t forget her for it, “Your gen'rous boldness to defend An innocent and absent friend.” Although old age has got to Swift and sickness has hold of Stella, she remained so dear to him and still saw her as beautiful after accepting the fate of time. Swift says, “And is not virtue in mankind The nutriment that feeds the mind; Upheld by each good action past, And still continued by the last? Then, who with reason can pretend That all effects of virtue end?”

He is accepting that all has to come to an end but this is also helping him accept his fate of old age and parting from the things he will never forget. In Swift’s poem he says, “Nor prize your life for other ends, Than merely to oblige your friends; Your former actions claim their part, And join to fortify your heart” reflecting that she was such a good human being and the one that would bring people together. By reading these lines by Swift, it is as if he is describing the perfect person and the best anyone to acquire from a friend. This shows that Swift has standards in life and also has standards when seeking for friends to keep for a lifetime.

According to the article “Good Old,” “...women define menopause as a reproductive experience first and only an aging experience second” (Dillaway, 405). This shows that women still feel in control of their body and has not given in to their age, having standards in life and continue to engage in daily activities. Studies show that most women part of the study moving on to the menopause stage do not feel old and continue their lives as usually, but for the small percentage that feel old are not citing that it was due to menopause, but from other life situations (Dillaway, 405).

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Aging and beauty interact with each other as time passes, however being optimistic about it can have its benefits even when age decay is upon us. Jonathan Swift never forgot about Stella even with his old age and her sickness, he remembered her and decided to write a poem of tribute for her birthday gift. There is always an optimistic side to every life ending story and that goes the same for aging reproductive processes in women. Even though the menopause relates to the approach of old age and the stripe of womanhood, they accept it and embrace it as it comes to them in life. Swift accepts the concept of time decay and because of this, he brings himself to the conclusion that he should embrace every last remaining day.


  1. Dillaway, Heather E. “Menopause Is the ‘Good Old’: Women's Thoughts about Reproductive Aging.” Gender and Society, vol. 19, no. 3, 2005, pp. 398–417. JSTOR, JSTOR,
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The Use Of Decay & Beauty In “Stella’S Birthday”. (2020, January 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 19, 2024, from
“The Use Of Decay & Beauty In “Stella’S Birthday”.” GradesFixer, 15 Jan. 2020,
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The Use Of Decay & Beauty In “Stella’S Birthday” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2020 Jan 15 [cited 2024 Apr 19]. Available from:
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