Goblin Market: Innuendo?

Just to start off before the review, I would like to say that if this poem was not meant about sex, then I’m sorry for having a dirty mind.

Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” is about two girls – Lizzie and Laura – who go down to a river by a glen to get some water. The glen is known for being where the goblin merchant men sell they’re fruits. Both girls know that they mustn’t look at the goblins, but Laura looks anyway. Lizzie runs away. Laura goes to the goblin men and buys fruit for a lock of her hair. She spends a long time “sucking their fruit” and then goes home. Laura dreams of returning to buy more fruit the next evening, but finds that the goblin men no longer appear to her. Lizzie can still hear them, but Laura no longer can. Laura longs for goblin fruit, and start to pine away. Lizzie becomes concerned that her sister will die, so she decides that she will go into the forest to buy fruit for her, but not to take any for herself. she goes to the goblins and gives them a penny and asks for fruit. They tell her to stay and suck some plums, but she says she just wants to buy fruit and leave. The goblins grow angry and beat her up. They try to force fruit into her mouth and cover her face in juice. The goblins finally decide that they will never make her eat fruit, so they pack up and leave. Lizzie runs home to her dying sister and tells her to lick the juice off her face. Laura tries some of the juice to find that it’s no longer appealing, but rather is like poison. Laura realizes that she no longer craves goblin fruit and soon recovers. In the end, Laura and Lizzie grow old find men and get married, Laura warns her children of the dangers of goblin men, and how there is no better friend than a sister.

Rossetti’s diction is rather elegant. You can tell that a lot of forethought went into this poem. I would classify this as true “poetic diction.” despite the flourishing language, the author also works in rhythm and rhyme.

Who is the audience? I believe this was intended for her older sister Maria.

This poem is full of alliteration. I see a greater amount of consonance alliteration than assonance alliteration. with statements such as: “mopping and mowing” and “pomagranites full and fine.”  I saw far less assonance alliteration, but I spotted some such as: “rare pears and greengages.”

A lot of this poem is figurative if not the meaning itself. Rossetti goes off on long spiels; describing how “she was like a rush-embedded  swan” etc.

So this is the awkward question. Here is my thinking on why this the fruit represents sex. Poets are very selective in their choice of words. In the case of Rossetti you can see that she has carefully and beautifully chosen her words. But there is so much that can only be taken as innuendo: “She suck’d and suck’d and suck’d the more” continually talking about how she was sucking their fruit. And with Lilly you had the goblins trying to force the juice of their fruits into her mouth, and covering her face with it. I could be wrong. This could be about the dangers of “strong drink.” Or it may be a religious poem on how sinful revelry may be enjoyable for a time but how the sinful actions were killing her. What is my take on the symbolism of the goblin fruit? It is referring to sex.

Lastly the themes. I detect two themes in this poem: Never trust the goblin men. And: there is no friend like a sister.


1 Comment

  1. danielsbrown said,

    July 18, 2012 at 3:48 am

    Very good. People often wonder about the suggestive language in the poem. It’s hard to say what she meant exactly, but the poem is certainly about desire and temptation.

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