“We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?”
In ‘Goblin Market’, Christina Rossetti, an important and oft-quoted literary master, experiments with language, form and imagery to create a beautiful and voluptuous world of temptation and mystery.
Set in a fairytale world and exploring themes of temptation, sacrifice and salvation, ‘Goblin Market’ recounts the story of an horrific encounter between sisters Laura and Lizzie and evil goblin merchants.
Rossetti alludes to the traditional discourse of forbidden fruit and the biblical account of the Fall, so as to challenge the patriarchal perception of women within Victorian culture in terms of sexuality, education and the marketplace and also to reconstruct the Christian idea of redemption.
Initially received as a moral allegory about the dangers of giving in to temptation, the poem was later recast by the feminist classic The Madwoman in the Attic (1979) as a parable of female resistance and solidarity.
Besides the power of womanly solidarity, some studies have found an expressly lesbian eroticism in Rossetti’s work: Lizzie and Laura are deeply connected.
(The portrait of them asleep – "Golden head by golden head/Like two pigeons in one nest/ Folded in each other's wings" – easily suggests their interdependent closeness.)
CHRISTINA ROSSETTI (1830-1894) was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children's poems. She is most famous for the Christmas carol In the Bleak Midwinter, Goblin Market and Remember.