Goblin Market: Book Review

 

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Goblin Market rightfully claims a place among the most sensual and delightful poems of the English canon. Mouth-watering, sexual and erotic in its nature and with luscious, sugary juices cloying its every verse, it is an exquisite work of art.

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,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.”

 

I was drenched in pleasure while reading it. Rossetti makes it really elusive to bring its meaning to the light. Various interpretations can be presented on the table. Is it a feminist tale about homosexual politics? Is it about feminine sexuality (Eve, the forbidden fruit, temptation) and its relation to Victotian morality? A feminist fantasy? Is the poem about addiction? Is it about sisterly love and sacrifice as Lizzie assumes a Christ-like role with a line that reselmbles the Holy Communion, “Eat me, drink me, love me.”?

It might be all these and even much more. It’s exactly these multiple layers, this elusiveness, the poem’s dreamy quality and the delight that permeates the reader through every verse that make Goblin Market timeless and a delectation to mind, heart and soul.

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6 thoughts on “Goblin Market: Book Review

    • Truth is, the poem’s so rich in imagery and so refined rhymewise that it’s hard to penetrate a little deeper with the first reading. The reader’s attention gets distracted because of the beauty of the words. It’s only after I read it multiple times that I gradually started peeling off the poem’s layers. But I’d love to hear how other people interpret it. So, what do you think the poem’s about?

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      • That’s a challenging question. The truth is that I wouldn’t take the time to read it more than superficially. Let me try again. In the meantime, can you tell me the poet’s name and when it was written?

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  1. A blizzard of reactions: Why is it in the past tense? Do maids not hear goblins cry in the mornings and evenings any more? Hmm, I guess they don’t… because they’re not maids any more….OK, maybe I’m starting to get it.

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    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Interesting point about the tense. I hadn’t thought about it before. But, yes, you’re right of course. The poem ends in the present when the sisters are old and married with children. That they don’t hear the goblin men has to do with the fact that they rose above temptation due to their strong bond and have entered into sexual maturity and wisdom. Thus, they cannot be swayed by the cries of the goblin men any more.

      Liked by 1 person

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