Allusion in Goblin Market
Biblical Allusions: The poem makes allusions to stories from the Bible, stories known to Rossetti’s audience. The inclusion of the biblical tales in this poem offers a reading that instills a moral message to the readers. In this reading, much like the stories of the Bible, the poem serves as moral instruction.
Allusion Examples in Goblin Market :
"Life out of death...." See in text (Goblin Market )
Laura’s transition from near-death back to life is reminiscent of Jesus’s death and resurrection in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. After his sacrificing himself and being crucified, Jesus is buried, only to rise again three days later. In a similar fashion, Laura nearly dies, only to be given new life. The difference here is that Lizzie, not Laura, is the one who sacrifices herself.
"Lashing their tails They trod and hustled her,..." See in text (Goblin Market )
Rossetti makes clear the allegorical connection between the goblins and Satan, or the devil. When Lizzie denies their advances, the goblins take on a demonic, “evil” look and begin “lashing their tails.” The goblins are akin to the tempting serpent from the biblical story of the Garden of Eden. Lizzie, unlike Adam and Eve, does not accept the fruit.
"Such fruits as these No man can carry;..." See in text (Goblin Market )
Eating the biblical fruit of knowledge in the Garden of Eden is too much of a burden for Adam and Eve, causing them shame and mortality. The same is true of the goblin fruit, which “no man can carry.” Laura tried to, but paid the price: mortality, unquenchable desire, and lost innocence.
"For your sake I have braved the glen..." See in text (Goblin Market )
Lizzie put herself in danger for her sister’s sake. This language and action once again evokes Christ imagery. In the Bible, Jesus ventures into the wilderness where he is tempted by the devil in order to prove that he is the one true son of god. He “braves” this task for the “sake” of his disciples and all of mankind. His ability to resist temptation allows him to defeat the devil and go on to redeem the sins of humanity. Lizzie’s sacrifice for her sister is able to redeem Laura’s sins in much the same way.
"Eat me, drink me..." See in text (Goblin Market )
Lizzie’s speech when she returns from her trial with the goblins mimics the Eucharist, a Christian ceremony in which wine and bread are consecrated and then eaten to symbolize or embody Jesus’s Last Supper. In this ceremony, the priest will repeat Christ’s words, “take this, eat, this is my body broken for you; take this, drink, this is my blood.” Lizzie’s “eat me, drink me” command invokes these words and compares her to this religious figure.
"grew grey..." See in text (Goblin Market )
Jeanie’s story is used to teach Laura a lesson. After Jeanie ate the goblin fruit, she began to “grow grey.” This greyness symbolizes old age and eventual death. The fruit causes Jeanie to die, much like how the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge condemned the biblical Adam and Eve to mortality. As we will see with Laura, eating the fruit forces the girl out of the timeless world of childhood into the limited time of adulthood; it starts the clock that counts down to death.
"Her hair grew thin and grey;..." See in text (Goblin Market )
Laura is decaying and aging at a rapid rate as a result of having eaten the goblin fruit. This alludes to the biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis. Before eating the fruit, the two are immortal; after eating it, they become mortal.
"unknown orchard..." See in text (Goblin Market )
Characterizing the orchard “unknown” suggests a connection between these fruits and the biblical story of the fruit on the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden. The fruit on this tree in Eden was meant to be “unknown” to man, in much the same way that these fruits were meant to be unknown to Laura. Eating the fruit can be seen as Laura indulging in forbidden temptation and therefore the cause of her coming misfortune.
" tree of life..." See in text (Goblin Market )
The “tree of life” is an archetype that appears in the mythos of many cultures. The tree connects earth with heaven, and offers continuous life. The figure of Laura’s “tree of life droop[ing]” indicates her fading health as a result of having eaten the goblin fruit.
"Sweeter than honey from the rock,..." See in text (Goblin Market )
This phrase is an allusion to Psalm 81:16 in the Bible, which states: “He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat, and, ‘With honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.’” The traditional interpretation of this Psalm is that God is not to blame for one’s sinfulness. He allows humans to feel lust but also gave them heads to counsel themselves out of lust. In other words, sinners are their own enemies and are the only ones to blame for their misfortune.
"Pretty Polly..." See in text (Goblin Market )
“Pretty Polly” is a murder ballad, a subgenre of the traditional ballad that tells stories of crime. In this ballad, a young woman named Polly is lured into the woods, where she is murdered and buried in a shallow grave. In some versions of the poem, a ship captain promises to marry her and then kills her when she becomes pregnant before the wedding. This reference should warn Laura of the danger these men pose to her. She proceeds nonetheless, either ignoring or misunderstanding their words.
"doves..." See in text (Goblin Market )
In Christian theology, doves symbolize peace and heavenly harmony. Laura hears “doves’ in the voices of the goblins. However, the reader should not take this as a sign of the goblins’ internal goodness. This is instead a sign that Laura is blind to the dangers of these goblins. Much like Eve was tricked into believing the serpent was virtuous in the biblical story of the Garden of Eden, Laura is tricked into seeing the goblins as friendly.
"evil gifts..." See in text (Goblin Market )
In referring to the fruit as “evil gifts,” Lizzie draws a connection between the fruit they are tempted with and the fruit Eve was tempted with. Satan’s fruit is the “evil gift” that caused man to fall from paradise.
"fruit-crowned..." See in text (Goblin Market )
While this does mean that the orange fruit is located on top of the tree, the presence of the word “crown” in this section is another allusion to the biblical story of Jesus Christ. Similar to Jesus’s trial by temptation in the desert with the devil, Lizzie is tempted and assaulted by the goblin men. She becomes a kind of Christ figure, willing to be tempted and tortured for the love of her sister.
"sound to eye..." See in text (Goblin Market )
In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan tempts Eve to eat the apple by convincing her that the fruit will open her eyes to the wonderful things she cannot see. This metaphor that draws a connection between eating and sight suggests a connection between the fruit and knowledge, and and thus alludes to Milton’s account of the story of Adam and Eve.
"Pomegranates..." See in text (Goblin Market )
In the Greek myth of Persephone, “pomegranates” are symbolic of damning temptation. Persephone, daughter of the harvest goddess Demeter, is kidnapped by Hades, the god of the underworld. After great protest from Demeter, Zeus and Hades agree to return Persephone to the land of the living on the condition that she does not eat anything in the underworld. However, Persephone is tempted into eating the seeds of a pomegranate and thus forced to spend half of every year in the underworld for the rest of eternity.
"Apples..." See in text (Goblin Market )
In Western Culture, “apples” allude to the story of Adam and Eve. In the Biblical story of Genesis, God grants Adam and Eve dominion over all of Eden, a paradisiacal garden where there is no time or strife. The only thing he forbids them from doing is eating from the Tree of Knowledge. When Satan tricks Eve into eating an apple from the tree, Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden and condemned to mortality.
"goblins..." See in text (Goblin Market )
In mythology, “goblins” are monstrous creatures that are generally grotesque, mischievous, evil, and greedy. Here, these creatures are cast specifically as fruit merchants who tempt the young maidens.