Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, is a lavishly sensuous masterpiece of imagination; as most of Rossetti`s poems are, it can be seen as a fairy tale of renunciation by a writer not too far away from her own childhood when she completed it in 1859. The freedom and virtuosity of her lyrical gifts is astounding, as the narrative ebbs and flows like an endless, silky golden thread of words. There are so many vibrant, brilliantly musical set pieces to make a single choice of any given part virtually impossible; it`s an example of a mind operating with complete poetic freedom. Perhaps originally conceived as a child`s poem, it quickly descends into the dark forest of nightmare as the two sisters, Lizzie and Laura are confronted, and tempted by the dangerous and magical fruit offered by the goblins they encounter; Lizzie instinctively resists them, but Laura barters a strand of her golden hair for a taste of the fateful fruit, and returns home longing for more, but unable to hear the goblin calls any longer; the implication being that she has given her maiden hood away cheaply, she begins to sicken and age. Lizzie, who wasn`t tempted by the fruit, sets out with a penny to buy more fruit to save her sister. The goblins try to force feed the fruit to Lizzie, but our heroine still valiantly resists and returns home, her face dripping with the syrupy juices of her sister`s desire, which Laura gratefully licks and sucks, and regains her health, and the two sisters live into contented motherhood.
The poem can be seen to have several interpretations depending which angle you`re coming from: we`ve already ticked the sexual box, with it`s loss of virginity, the goblin`s fruit smearing and Lizzie`s tight lipped resistance, when “…..her neck quaked like curd”, from their unwelcome attentions; but it might also be an allegory of addiction and recovery; but perhaps we shouldn`t drown ourselves too deeply in the allegorical pond, it should be possible to simply enjoy the poem at face value and drink up the wealth and richness of it`s matchless free style language. The sheer brilliance of Rossetti`s technical skill is breath taking, with daring blends of meter and rhythmic pace which plunge us into the deep emotion of the poem as if we were riding an untamed and headstrong stallion. Having failed to induce Lizzie into consumption of their fruit, the goblins “throw a wobbly”, hurl Lizzie`s coin back at her, trampling and kicking the fruit into the ground. It`s interesting that Christina dedicated the poem to her older sister Maria, who like their father, Gabrielle, was a Dante scholar, and Christina felt that she did`nt have the intellectual gifts needed to compete with them on a level playing field, so finely honed her immense gifts as a poet instead. And what a gift she gave to the world.