Goblin Market

Original Text: 
Christina Rossetti, Goblin Market and other Poems (Cambridge: Macmillan, 1862). end R673 G63 1862 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto). Text from Christina Rossetti, Poems (1890).
2Maids heard the goblins cry:
3"Come buy our orchard fruits,
4Come buy, come buy:
5Apples and quinces,
6Lemons and oranges,
7Plump unpeck'd cherries,
8Melons and raspberries,
9Bloom-down-cheek'd peaches,
10Swart-headed mulberries,
11Wild free-born cranberries,
12Crab-apples, dewberries,
13Pine-apples, blackberries,
14Apricots, strawberries;--
15All ripe together
16In summer weather,--
17Morns that pass by,
18Fair eves that fly;
19Come buy, come buy:
20Our grapes fresh from the vine,
21Pomegranates full and fine,
22Dates and sharp bullaces,
23Rare pears and greengages,
24Damsons and bilberries,
25Taste them and try:
26Currants and gooseberries,
27Bright-fire-like barberries,
28Figs to fill your mouth,
29Citrons from the South,
30Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
31Come buy, come buy."
32     Evening by evening
33Among the brookside rushes,
34Laura bow'd her head to hear,
35Lizzie veil'd her blushes:
36Crouching close together
37In the cooling weather,
38With clasping arms and cautioning lips,
39With tingling cheeks and finger tips.
40"Lie close," Laura said,
41Pricking up her golden head:
42"We must not look at goblin men,
43We must not buy their fruits:
44Who knows upon what soil they fed
45Their hungry thirsty roots?"
46"Come buy," call the goblins
47Hobbling down the glen.
48"Oh," cried Lizzie, "Laura, Laura,
49You should not peep at goblin men."
50Lizzie cover'd up her eyes,
51Cover'd close lest they should look;
52Laura rear'd her glossy head,
53And whisper'd like the restless brook:
54"Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie,
55Down the glen tramp little men.
56One hauls a basket,
57One bears a plate,
58One lugs a golden dish
59Of many pounds weight.
60How fair the vine must grow
61Whose grapes are so luscious;
62How warm the wind must blow
63Through those fruit bushes."
64"No," said Lizzie, "No, no, no;
65Their offers should not charm us,
66Their evil gifts would harm us."
67She thrust a dimpled finger
68In each ear, shut eyes and ran:
69Curious Laura chose to linger
70Wondering at each merchant man.
71One had a cat's face,
72One whisk'd a tail,
73One tramp'd at a rat's pace,
74One crawl'd like a snail,
75One like a wombat prowl'd obtuse and furry,
76One like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry.
77She heard a voice like voice of doves
78Cooing all together:
79They sounded kind and full of loves
80In the pleasant weather.
81     Laura stretch'd her gleaming neck
82Like a rush-imbedded swan,
83Like a lily from the beck,
84Like a moonlit poplar branch,
85Like a vessel at the launch
86When its last restraint is gone.
87     Backwards up the mossy glen
88Turn'd and troop'd the goblin men,
89With their shrill repeated cry,
90"Come buy, come buy."
91When they reach'd where Laura was
92They stood stock still upon the moss,
93Leering at each other,
94Brother with queer brother;
95Signalling each other,
96Brother with sly brother.
97One set his basket down,
98One rear'd his plate;
99One began to weave a crown
100Of tendrils, leaves, and rough nuts brown
101(Men sell not such in any town);
102One heav'd the golden weight
103Of dish and fruit to offer her:
104"Come buy, come buy," was still their cry.
105Laura stared but did not stir,
106Long'd but had no money:
107The whisk-tail'd merchant bade her taste
108In tones as smooth as honey,
109The cat-faced purr'd,
110The rat-faced spoke a word
111Of welcome, and the snail-paced even was heard;
112One parrot-voiced and jolly
113Cried "Pretty Goblin" still for "Pretty Polly;"--
114One whistled like a bird.
115     But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
116"Good folk, I have no coin;
117To take were to purloin:
118I have no copper in my purse,
119I have no silver either,
120And all my gold is on the furze
121That shakes in windy weather
122Above the rusty heather."
123"You have much gold upon your head,"
124They answer'd all together:
125"Buy from us with a golden curl."
126She clipp'd a precious golden lock,
127She dropp'd a tear more rare than pearl,
128Then suck'd their fruit globes fair or red:
129Sweeter than honey from the rock,
130Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,
131Clearer than water flow'd that juice;
132She never tasted such before,
133How should it cloy with length of use?
134She suck'd and suck'd and suck'd the more
135Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
136She suck'd until her lips were sore;
137Then flung the emptied rinds away
138But gather'd up one kernel stone,
139And knew not was it night or day
140As she turn'd home alone.
141     Lizzie met her at the gate
142Full of wise upbraidings:
143"Dear, you should not stay so late,
144Twilight is not good for maidens;
145Should not loiter in the glen
146In the haunts of goblin men.
147Do you not remember Jeanie,
148How she met them in the moonlight,
149Took their gifts both choice and many,
150Ate their fruits and wore their flowers
151Pluck'd from bowers
152Where summer ripens at all hours?
153But ever in the noonlight
154She pined and pined away;
155Sought them by night and day,
156Found them no more, but dwindled and grew grey;
157Then fell with the first snow,
158While to this day no grass will grow
159Where she lies low:
160I planted daisies there a year ago
161That never blow.
162You should not loiter so."
163"Nay, hush," said Laura:
164"Nay, hush, my sister:
165I ate and ate my fill,
166Yet my mouth waters still;
167To-morrow night I will
168Buy more;" and kiss'd her:
169"Have done with sorrow;
170I'll bring you plums to-morrow
171Fresh on their mother twigs,
172Cherries worth getting;
173You cannot think what figs
174My teeth have met in,
175What melons icy-cold
176Piled on a dish of gold
177Too huge for me to hold,
178What peaches with a velvet nap,
179Pellucid grapes without one seed:
180Odorous indeed must be the mead
181Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink
182With lilies at the brink,
183And sugar-sweet their sap."
184     Golden head by golden head,
185Like two pigeons in one nest
186Folded in each other's wings,
187They lay down in their curtain'd bed:
188Like two blossoms on one stem,
189Like two flakes of new-fall'n snow,
190Like two wands of ivory
191Tipp'd with gold for awful kings.
192Moon and stars gaz'd in at them,
193Wind sang to them lullaby,
194Lumbering owls forbore to fly,
195Not a bat flapp'd to and fro
196Round their rest:
197Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
198Lock'd together in one nest.
199     Early in the morning
200When the first cock crow'd his warning,
201Neat like bees, as sweet and busy,
202Laura rose with Lizzie:
203Fetch'd in honey, milk'd the cows,
204Air'd and set to rights the house,
205Kneaded cakes of whitest wheat,
206Cakes for dainty mouths to eat,
207Next churn'd butter, whipp'd up cream,
208Fed their poultry, sat and sew'd;
209Talk'd as modest maidens should:
210Lizzie with an open heart,
211Laura in an absent dream,
212One content, one sick in part;
213One warbling for the mere bright day's delight,
214One longing for the night.
215     At length slow evening came:
216They went with pitchers to the reedy brook;
217Lizzie most placid in her look,
218Laura most like a leaping flame.
219They drew the gurgling water from its deep;
220Lizzie pluck'd purple and rich golden flags,
221Then turning homeward said: "The sunset flushes
222Those furthest loftiest crags;
223Come, Laura, not another maiden lags.
224No wilful squirrel wags,
225The beasts and birds are fast asleep."
226But Laura loiter'd still among the rushes
227And said the bank was steep.
228     And said the hour was early still
229The dew not fall'n, the wind not chill;
230Listening ever, but not catching
231The customary cry,
232"Come buy, come buy,"
233With its iterated jingle
234Of sugar-baited words:
235Not for all her watching
236Once discerning even one goblin
237Racing, whisking, tumbling, hobbling;
238Let alone the herds
239That used to tramp along the glen,
240In groups or single,
241Of brisk fruit-merchant men.
242     Till Lizzie urged, "O Laura, come;
243I hear the fruit-call but I dare not look:
244You should not loiter longer at this brook:
245Come with me home.
246The stars rise, the moon bends her arc,
247Each glowworm winks her spark,
248Let us get home before the night grows dark:
249For clouds may gather
250Though this is summer weather,
251Put out the lights and drench us through;
252Then if we lost our way what should we do?"
253     Laura turn'd cold as stone
254To find her sister heard that cry alone,
255That goblin cry,
256"Come buy our fruits, come buy."
257Must she then buy no more such dainty fruit?
259Gone deaf and blind?
260Her tree of life droop'd from the root:
261She said not one word in her heart's sore ache;
262But peering thro' the dimness, nought discerning,
263Trudg'd home, her pitcher dripping all the way;
264So crept to bed, and lay
265Silent till Lizzie slept;
266Then sat up in a passionate yearning,
267And gnash'd her teeth for baulk'd desire, and wept
268As if her heart would break.
269     Day after day, night after night,
270Laura kept watch in vain
271In sullen silence of exceeding pain.
272She never caught again the goblin cry:
273"Come buy, come buy;"--
274She never spied the goblin men
275Hawking their fruits along the glen:
276But when the noon wax'd bright
277Her hair grew thin and grey;
278She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn
279To swift decay and burn
280Her fire away.
281     One day remembering her kernel-stone
282She set it by a wall that faced the south;
283Dew'd it with tears, hoped for a root,
284Watch'd for a waxing shoot,
285But there came none;
286It never saw the sun,
287It never felt the trickling moisture run:
288While with sunk eyes and faded mouth
289She dream'd of melons, as a traveller sees
290False waves in desert drouth
291With shade of leaf-crown'd trees,
292And burns the thirstier in the sandful breeze.
293     She no more swept the house,
294Tended the fowls or cows,
295Fetch'd honey, kneaded cakes of wheat,
296Brought water from the brook:
297But sat down listless in the chimney-nook
298And would not eat.
299     Tender Lizzie could not bear
300To watch her sister's cankerous care
301Yet not to share.
302She night and morning
303Caught the goblins' cry:
304"Come buy our orchard fruits,
305Come buy, come buy;"--
306Beside the brook, along the glen,
307She heard the tramp of goblin men,
308The yoke and stir
309Poor Laura could not hear;
310Long'd to buy fruit to comfort her,
311But fear'd to pay too dear.
312She thought of Jeanie in her grave,
313Who should have been a bride;
314But who for joys brides hope to have
315Fell sick and died
316In her gay prime,
317In earliest winter time
318With the first glazing rime,
319With the first snow-fall of crisp winter time.
320     Till Laura dwindling
321Seem'd knocking at Death's door:
322Then Lizzie weigh'd no more
323Better and worse;
324But put a silver penny in her purse,
325Kiss'd Laura, cross'd the heath with clumps of furze
326At twilight, halted by the brook:
327And for the first time in her life
328Began to listen and look.
329     Laugh'd every goblin
330When they spied her peeping:
331Came towards her hobbling,
332Flying, running, leaping,
333Puffing and blowing,
334Chuckling, clapping, crowing,
335Clucking and gobbling,
336Mopping and mowing,
337Full of airs and graces,
338Pulling wry faces,
339Demure grimaces,
340Cat-like and rat-like,
341Ratel- and wombat-like,
342Snail-paced in a hurry,
343Parrot-voiced and whistler,
344Helter skelter, hurry skurry,
345Chattering like magpies,
346Fluttering like pigeons,
347Gliding like fishes,--
348Hugg'd her and kiss'd her:
349Squeez'd and caress'd her:
350Stretch'd up their dishes,
351Panniers, and plates:
352"Look at our apples
353Russet and dun,
354Bob at our cherries,
355Bite at our peaches,
356Citrons and dates,
357Grapes for the asking,
358Pears red with basking
359Out in the sun,
360Plums on their twigs;
361Pluck them and suck them,
362Pomegranates, figs."--
363     "Good folk," said Lizzie,
364Mindful of Jeanie:
365"Give me much and many: --
366Held out her apron,
367Toss'd them her penny.
368"Nay, take a seat with us,
369Honour and eat with us,"
370They answer'd grinning:
371"Our feast is but beginning.
372Night yet is early,
373Warm and dew-pearly,
374Wakeful and starry:
375Such fruits as these
376No man can carry:
377Half their bloom would fly,
378Half their dew would dry,
379Half their flavour would pass by.
380Sit down and feast with us,
381Be welcome guest with us,
382Cheer you and rest with us."--
383"Thank you," said Lizzie: "But one waits
384At home alone for me:
385So without further parleying,
386If you will not sell me any
387Of your fruits though much and many,
388Give me back my silver penny
389I toss'd you for a fee."--
390They began to scratch their pates,
391No longer wagging, purring,
392But visibly demurring,
393Grunting and snarling.
394One call'd her proud,
395Cross-grain'd, uncivil;
396Their tones wax'd loud,
397Their looks were evil.
398Lashing their tails
399They trod and hustled her,
400Elbow'd and jostled her,
401Claw'd with their nails,
402Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
403Tore her gown and soil'd her stocking,
404Twitch'd her hair out by the roots,
405Stamp'd upon her tender feet,
406Held her hands and squeez'd their fruits
407Against her mouth to make her eat.
408     White and golden Lizzie stood,
409Like a lily in a flood,--
410Like a rock of blue-vein'd stone
411Lash'd by tides obstreperously,--
412Like a beacon left alone
413In a hoary roaring sea,
414Sending up a golden fire,--
415Like a fruit-crown'd orange-tree
416White with blossoms honey-sweet
417Sore beset by wasp and bee,--
418Like a royal virgin town
419Topp'd with gilded dome and spire
420Close beleaguer'd by a fleet
421Mad to tug her standard down.
422     One may lead a horse to water,
423Twenty cannot make him drink.
424Though the goblins cuff'd and caught her,
425Coax'd and fought her,
426Bullied and besought her,
427Scratch'd her, pinch'd her black as ink,
428Kick'd and knock'd her,
429Maul'd and mock'd her,
430Lizzie utter'd not a word;
431Would not open lip from lip
432Lest they should cram a mouthful in:
433But laugh'd in heart to feel the drip
434Of juice that syrupp'd all her face,
435And lodg'd in dimples of her chin,
436And streak'd her neck which quaked like curd.
437At last the evil people,
438Worn out by her resistance,
439Flung back her penny, kick'd their fruit
440Along whichever road they took,
441Not leaving root or stone or shoot;
442Some writh'd into the ground,
443Some div'd into the brook
444With ring and ripple,
445Some scudded on the gale without a sound,
446Some vanish'd in the distance.
447     In a smart, ache, tingle,
448Lizzie went her way;
449Knew not was it night or day;
450Sprang up the bank, tore thro' the furze,
451Threaded copse and dingle,
452And heard her penny jingle
453Bouncing in her purse,--
454Its bounce was music to her ear.
455She ran and ran
456As if she fear'd some goblin man
457Dogg'd her with gibe or curse
458Or something worse:
459But not one goblin scurried after,
460Nor was she prick'd by fear;
461The kind heart made her windy-paced
462That urged her home quite out of breath with haste
463And inward laughter.
464     She cried, "Laura," up the garden,
465"Did you miss me?
466Come and kiss me.
467Never mind my bruises,
468Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
469Squeez'd from goblin fruits for you,
470Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
471Eat me, drink me, love me;
472Laura, make much of me;
473For your sake I have braved the glen
474And had to do with goblin merchant men."
475     Laura started from her chair,
476Flung her arms up in the air,
477Clutch'd her hair:
478"Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tasted
479For my sake the fruit forbidden?
480Must your light like mine be hidden,
481Your young life like mine be wasted,
482Undone in mine undoing,
483And ruin'd in my ruin,
484Thirsty, canker'd, goblin-ridden?"--
485She clung about her sister,
486Kiss'd and kiss'd and kiss'd her:
487Tears once again
488Refresh'd her shrunken eyes,
489Dropping like rain
490After long sultry drouth;
491Shaking with aguish fear, and pain,
492She kiss'd and kiss'd her with a hungry mouth.
493     Her lips began to scorch,
494That juice was wormwood to her tongue,
495She loath'd the feast:
496Writhing as one possess'd she leap'd and sung,
497Rent all her robe, and wrung
498Her hands in lamentable haste,
499And beat her breast.
500Her locks stream'd like the torch
501Borne by a racer at full speed,
502Or like the mane of horses in their flight,
503Or like an eagle when she stems the light
504Straight toward the sun,
505Or like a caged thing freed,
506Or like a flying flag when armies run.
507     Swift fire spread through her veins, knock'd at her heart,
508Met the fire smouldering there
509And overbore its lesser flame;
510She gorged on bitterness without a name:
511Ah! fool, to choose such part
512Of soul-consuming care!
513Sense fail'd in the mortal strife:
514Like the watch-tower of a town
515Which an earthquake shatters down,
516Like a lightning-stricken mast,
517Like a wind-uprooted tree
518Spun about,
519Like a foam-topp'd waterspout
520Cast down headlong in the sea,
521She fell at last;
522Pleasure past and anguish past,
523Is it death or is it life?
524     Life out of death.
525That night long Lizzie watch'd by her,
526Counted her pulse's flagging stir,
527Felt for her breath,
528Held water to her lips, and cool'd her face
529With tears and fanning leaves:
530But when the first birds chirp'd about their eaves,
531And early reapers plodded to the place
532Of golden sheaves,
533And dew-wet grass
534Bow'd in the morning winds so brisk to pass,
535And new buds with new day
536Open'd of cup-like lilies on the stream,
537Laura awoke as from a dream,
538Laugh'd in the innocent old way,
539Hugg'd Lizzie but not twice or thrice;
540Her gleaming locks show'd not one thread of grey,
541Her breath was sweet as May
542And light danced in her eyes.
543     Days, weeks, months, years
544Afterwards, when both were wives
545With children of their own;
546Their mother-hearts beset with fears,
547Their lives bound up in tender lives;
548Laura would call the little ones
549And tell them of her early prime,
550Those pleasant days long gone
551Of not-returning time:
552Would talk about the haunted glen,
553The wicked, quaint fruit-merchant men,
554Their fruits like honey to the throat
555But poison in the blood;
556(Men sell not such in any town):
557Would tell them how her sister stood
558In deadly peril to do her good,
559And win the fiery antidote:
560Then joining hands to little hands
561Would bid them cling together,
562"For there is no friend like a sister
563In calm or stormy weather;
564To cheer one on the tedious way,
565To fetch one if one goes astray,
566To lift one if one totters down,
567To strengthen whilst one stands."


1] First entitled "A Peep at the Goblins--To M. F. R." (Maria Francesca Rossetti, Christina's sister). The year after Christina Rossetti's death, "Goblin Market" was interpreted by James Ashcroft Noble as "a little spiritual drama of love's vicarious redemption, in which the child redeemer goes into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, that by her painful conquest she may succour and save the sister who has been vanquished and all but slain. William Michael Rossetti warned against a search for detailed symbolism, while accepting a general ethical significance for the poem: "I have more than once heard Christina aver that the poem has not any profound or ulterior meaning--it is just a fairy story; yet one can discern that it implies at any rate this much--that to succumb to temptation makes one a victim to that same continuous temptation; that the remedy does not always lie with oneself; and that a stronger and more righteous will may prove of avail to restore one's lost estate" (Mackenzie Bell, Christina Rossetti, 207). Back to Line
258] succous: juicy. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Margaret Frances (Sister St. Francis) Nims
RPO Edition: 
3RP 3.305.