Goblin Market – A Classic Poem for R.I.P. VII

The theme for this month’s Poetry  Project is Classic Poetry, not my favorite, as I sometimes find it too dense and convoluted (this probably has something to do with a lousy high school English lit teacher).  Then I thought about R.I. P VII and got all excited.  There are several options, Poe being the most obvious,  then I remembered a poem I heard someone read it aloud at an All Hallow’s Eve party a long time ago.

Goblin Market
by Christina Rossetti

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—

Goblin Market is  Rossetti’s  most familiar poem.  It tells a story that is similar to many folk and fairy tales.  Someone comes in contact with fabulous beings or crosses into a mythical land and, because they eat  food, or dance, or take a lover,  fall ill or are kidnapped.  Two sisters spy on Goblin merchants, who gather each evening and call out the wonderful qualities of their produce.  Both sisters  know that buying and eating this fruit will have deadly consequences but Laura is so enticed that she can’t help herself.

Curious Laura chose to linger
Wondering at each merchant man.
One had a cat’s face,
One whisk’d a tail,
One tramp’d at a rat’s pace,
One crawl’d like a snail,
One like a wombat prowl’d obtuse and furry,
One like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry.
She heard a voice like voice of doves
Cooing all together:
They sounded kind and full of loves
In the pleasant weather.

Of course, we all know where curiosity leads.  It falls on Lizzie to save Laura and she does so by enduring great suffering.  The images in this poem are very rich, very sensual, some are intensely sexual, but I won’t give any more away.

Rossetti used irregular meter and an uneven rhyme pattern in Goblin Market, building excitement and dread.  Critics tend to see this poem as an expression of growing feminism against Victorian social norms and of Rossetti’s possible sexual orientation.  There are elements of temptation, seduction,  and even the “fall from paradise”.  I prefer to see it as very dark enchantment, and the lengths to which one sister will go to save another.  You can read the entire poem here, thanks to The Poetry Foundation.  Please come back and tell me your thoughts.  And join the Poetry Project  in October for Halloween Poetry!


Filed under Classic, Poetry Project, R.I.P. VII, Thoughts

11 responses to “Goblin Market – A Classic Poem for R.I.P. VII

  1. Thank you so much for leaving a link to it, Gavin. I went and read it, and remembered how much I enjoyed it. It is much more clever than it first appears, I enjoy how she uses sound and image to move her poem along. A dark and lovely poem about the dangers of eating goblin fruit away from the regular fruit stands. I like how it’s her sister who saves her, too.

    • Rereading Goblin Market a couple of times I realized how creepy it is! I think alot of that has to do with Rossetti’s rhythms. They repeat and repeat and then go all over the place!

  2. Interesting how critics view this poem. Are they reading too much into it, or maybe, just a simple story of two sisters. Umm… I’m not in the RIP challenge, but still curious to see what you have here.

    On another note, I’ve seen the film adaptation of Midnight’s Children. If you’re interested, I’ve just posted a review. ;)

    • I love how I can weave A More Diverse Universe into my R.I.P. reading. Now I am going to go see what you thought of Midnight’s Children!

  3. I haven’t read this one in years but do remember loving it. I must get my book of it out again and reread.

  4. I really loved this poem when I first read it years ago. Thanks for sharing it.

  5. I love how creepy this poem is. There’s an exceptionally frightening episode of (sorry for how geeky this is about to be) Doctor Who where one of the characters references this poem and makes everything that much creepier.

    • The poem is really creepy. Dr Who is not geeky, he is AWESOME (and so are Amy and Rory and River Song)! I am assuming the reference to Goblin Market is in a newer episode, one I have not seen yet?

  6. I must confess that I very rarely read poetry which is a shame. This one is wonderfully creepy though and great for RIP.
    Lynn :D

  7. I remember reading this one in a literature class in college. Definitely an interesting, fable-like story…

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