Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Goblin Market

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:"

This weekend I decided to read Christina Rossetti's free verse fairy tale poem again for the first time since college. I was originally lead to the poem by Lewis Carroll's fascination with it. In this poem, he saw that children's literature could be something more than the didactic snores that had existed before. I was recently reading another Lewis Carroll inspired work and was once again steered to The Goblin Market

The Goblin Market is the tale of two sisters tempted by forest goblins to eat the fantastical fruits they sell. The sister's know better than to taste of such fruit, but one simply cannot resist...she eats. 

As the wiser sister watches the other prematurely age and begin to die before her eyes, she decides she must face her fears in order to save her sister. What ensues is a maddening encounter that stands as one of the most exiting pieces of poetry written in the Victorian era, in my opinion. 

"Though the goblins cuffed and caught
  Coaxed and fought her,
 Bullied and besought her,
 Scratched her, pinched her black as ink,
 Kicked and knocked her,
 Mauled and mocked her,
 Lizzie uttered not a word;
 Would not open lip from lip
 Lest they should cram a mouthful in;"

The strength of this poem is in the language. The pace is frantic and enthralling. Reading it aloud, you can hear the words circling upon each other like a storm. It's also clear to see its influence in some of the more manic episodes within Alice's adventures. 

The poem can be read in it's entirety here if you wish...as with any verse though, I recommend you read it aloud. Enjoy. I certainly did. 


  1. Brian, love your blogs. I studied this poem in my Children's Literature course in college. People have no idea the depths of the meaning behind Nursery Rhymes and "children's stories!" Maybe it is better that way???

  2. Thanks.

    Yes, 'tis true. Though with this particular one, Christina always maintained it was not intended for children. But I've always thought the depth is what makes "children's" literature so fascinating. And the fact that most people don't understand it's depths, is what causes so many people to say "oooh, I've always wanted to write a children's book" because they have some silly notion of pigs on motorcycles :)