Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Goblin Market

A few years back now, I was in the fug of my warm kitchen, scrapbooking on the kitchen table as dinner cooked in the oven.  It was a Sunday and I distinctly remember it being grey and miserable outside.  I had been in there for most of the afternoon, happily listening to Radio 4 in the background whilst I crafted away.  The afternoon play and gardening programmes eventually melted into Poetry Please.  I listened to a couple of the poems broadcast and then the next one made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.  Whether it was the skill of the narrator and her honeyed tones (I believe it was Daniella Denby-Ashe) or the content of the poem I know not, but I distinctly remember being absolutely enthralled for the rest of the reading and immediately had to read it for myself.

It was incredible karma therefore, a couple of weeks later, that I found this very book in a charity shop for 50p
Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti has been interpreted by many literary critics over time, and each critic has their own views on the subject matter.  The poem is widely seen as a  "a sensuous fairy story, ...  a heady tale of repressed sexuality and sisterhood".  

What.  Ever.   

To me it's evocative of Autumn  and naughty goblin folk and the changing seasons.  It is without doubt a very sensual (and very long!) poem.  I'm no literary buff I'm afraid - I have absolutely no desire to disassemble the poem and look for hidden meanings and all that malarkey.  I just know that I love it and that it's one of my very favourite poems.  I'd love to hear that particular reading again but I've trawled Youtube and the Radio 4 iplayer thingie with no luck. 

I'm not going to post the whole poem again - but check it out here if you wish.   There is a reading up on Youtube by  David Shaw Parker which may have been recorded for Audiobooks, but having heard it read so beautifully by someone else, his reading was complete devoid of the sensuality of the writing somehow and irritated me to death!! (Get me being a diva! - Snigger!!)

Here's the first verse... I do hope that it entices you to read more.

Morning and evening

Maids heard the goblins cry:

"Come buy our orchard fruits,

Come buy, come buy:

Apples and quinces,

Lemons and oranges,

Plump unpecked cherries,

Melons and raspberries,

Bloom-down-cheeked 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........"


  1. I can see why you love it so. Most of it sounds like chez nous; although we have no Dewberries, Bullaces, or Barberries. In fact I don't even know what they are. And none of ours are for sale.

  2. Loved the poem. It could have many meanings, but like you, I'd rather take it as it is written, a great tale of goblins and scary things.

    I know what you mean about something told or sung so well by one artist, that it touches you, and nobody can ever replicate that feeling.

  3. I agree. It's a personal thing isn't it?

    Cro - I have no clue about dewberries and barberries - I think bullaces are small plums - jut a tad larger than damsons.

  4. I read this many years ago in an old book my mom had from high school...I loved it then and I thank you now for reacquainting me with it.

  5. Had you mentioned this before? I could swear I ran across this before..hmmm. Well, this time I clicked your link and read the whole thing over lunch hour. Love these types of evocative prose/poems. One time you read it and it evokes "this" next it evokes "that."
    Wonderful imagery though. If you did mention it before, thanks for posting about again. If it wasn't you, well then thanks for posting!!!

  6. Hello Kim

    I remember having to read this at university, but I must confess to not taking a liking to The Goblin Market. It left me feeling very uneasy. However, your extract has made me consider revisiting it.

    I am also your newest follower.


  7. Hello peeps!

    Glad you enjoyed it.

    Megs I don't 'think' I've posted about it before but I could be wrong.

    Hello Anna - welcome to my humble blogette!! Nice to see you here x