Goblin Market: The Fruit Bites Back

Goblin Market, by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894), is a masterpiece of repressed eroticism.  It involves two sisters and the Goblin Men, purveyors of sweet but deadly fruit.

The Victorians expressed their uncomfortable awareness of the duality of mind in the metaphor of fairies and the little people.  They can be seen as good, helpful influences in morality tales, but dig deeper and the raw energies of the unconscious surge out to unseat the forces of reason.  See Richard Dadd’s painting, The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke, for the latter.  Arthur Machen (1863-1947), a superb writer of supernatural and horror fiction, portrayed them as evil little bastards.

The poem is too long to reproduce in this post, apart from the first stanza, but you can find it here, in the Poetry pages or in this video. You’ll never look at the bowl of fruit on the table in quite the same way again.

The Goblin Market
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.”

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