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 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.'

         Evening by evening
Among the brookside rushes,
Laura bowed her head to hear,
Lizzie veiled her blushes:
Crouching close together
In the cooling weather,
With clasping arms and cautioning lips,
With tingling cheeks and finger tips.
'Lie close,' Laura said, 
Pricking up her golden head:
'We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?'
'Come buy,' call the goblins
Hobbling down the glen.

         'Oh,' cried Lizzie, 'Laura, Laura,
You should not peep at goblin men.'
Lizzie covered up her eyes, 
Covered close lest they should look;
Laura reared her glossy head,
And whispered like the restless brook:
'Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie,
Down the glen tramp little men.
One hauls a basket,
One bears a plate,
One lugs a golden dish
Of many pounds weight.
How fair the vine must grow 
Whose grapes are so luscious;
How warm the wind must blow
Through those fruit bushes.'
'No,' said Lizzie, 'No, no, no;
Their offers should not charm us,
Their evil gifts would harm us.'
She thrust a dimpled finger
In each ear, shut eyes and ran:
Curious Laura chose to linger
Wondering at each merchant man. 
One had a cat's face,
One whisked a tail,
One tramped at a rat's pace,
One crawled like a snail,
One like a wombat prowled obtuse and furry,
One like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry.
She heard a voice like voice of doves
Cooing all together:
They sounded kind and full of loves
In the pleasant weather.   

       Laura stretched her gleaming neck
Like a rush-imbedded swan,
Like a lily from the beck,
Like a moonlit poplar branch,
Like a vessel at the launch
When its last restraint is gone.

       Backwards up the mossy glen
Turned and trooped the goblin men,
With their shrill repeated cry,
'Come buy, come buy.' 
When they reached where Laura was
They stood stock still upon the moss,
Leering at each other,
Brother with queer brother;
Signalling each other,
Brother with sly brother.
One set his basket down,
One reared his plate;
One began to weave a crown
Of tendrils, leaves, and rough nuts brown 
(Men sell not such in any town);
One heaved the golden weight
Of dish and fruit to offer her:
'Come buy, come buy,' was still their cry.
Laura stared but did not stir,
Longed but had no money:
The whisk-tailed merchant bade her taste
In tones as smooth as honey,
The cat-faced purr'd,
The rat-faced spoke a word 
Of welcome, and the snail-paced even was heard;
One parrot-voiced and jolly
Cried 'Pretty Goblin' still for 'Pretty Polly;'—
One whistled like a bird.  

       But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
'Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze 
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather.'
'You have much gold upon your head,'
They answered all together:
'Buy from us with a golden curl.'
She clipped a precious golden lock,
She dropped a tear more rare than pearl,
Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red:
Sweeter than honey from the rock,
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine, 
Clearer than water flowed that juice;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She sucked and sucked and sucked the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
She sucked until her lips were sore;
Then flung the emptied rinds away
But gathered up one kernel stone,
And knew not was it night or day
As she turned home alone. 

       Lizzie met her at the gate
Full of wise upbraidings:
'Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens;
Should not loiter in the glen
In the haunts of goblin men.
Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,
Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers 
Plucked from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the noonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more, but dwindled and grew grey;
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low:
I planted daisies there a year ago 
That never blow.
You should not loiter so.'
'Nay, hush,' said Laura:
'Nay, hush, my sister:
I ate and ate my fill,
Yet my mouth waters still;
To-morrow night I will
Buy more:' and kissed her:
'Have done with sorrow;
I'll bring you plums to-morrow 
Fresh on their mother twigs,
Cherries worth getting;
You cannot think what figs
My teeth have met in,
What melons icy-cold
Piled on a dish of gold
Too huge for me to hold,
What peaches with a velvet nap,
Pellucid grapes without one seed:
Odorous indeed must be the mead 
Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink
With lilies at the brink,
And sugar-sweet their sap.'

       Golden head by golden head,
Like two pigeons in one nest
Folded in each other's wings,
They lay down in their curtained bed:
Like two blossoms on one stem,
Like two flakes of new-fall'n snow,
Like two wands of ivory 
Tipped with gold for awful kings.
Moon and stars gazed in at them,
Wind sang to them lullaby,
Lumbering owls forbore to fly,
Not a bat flapped to and fro
Round their rest:
Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Locked together in one nest.

       Early in the morning
When the first cock crowed his warning, 
Neat like bees, as sweet and busy,
Laura rose with Lizzie:
Fetched in honey, milked the cows,
Aired and set to rights the house,
Kneaded cakes of whitest wheat,
Cakes for dainty mouths to eat,
Next churned butter, whipped up cream,
Fed their poultry, sat and sewed;
Talked as modest maidens should:
Lizzie with an open heart, 
Laura in an absent dream,
One content, one sick in part;
One warbling for the mere bright day's delight,
One longing for the night.  

       At length slow evening came:
They went with pitchers to the reedy brook;
Lizzie most placid in her look,
Laura most like a leaping flame.
They drew the gurgling water from its deep;
Lizzie plucked purple and rich golden flags, 
Then turning homeward said: 'The sunset flushes
Those furthest loftiest crags;
Come, Laura, not another maiden lags,
No wilful squirrel wags,
The beasts and birds are fast asleep.'
But Laura loitered still among the rushes
And said the bank was steep.  

       And said the hour was early still
The dew not fall'n, the wind not chill:
Listening ever, but not catching 
The customary cry,
'Come buy, come buy,'
With its iterated jingle
Of sugar-baited words:
Not for all her watching
Once discerning even one goblin
Racing, whisking, tumbling, hobbling;
Let alone the herds
That used to tramp along the glen,
In groups or single, 
Of brisk fruit-merchant men. 

       Till Lizzie urged, 'O Laura, come;
I hear the fruit-call but I dare not look:
You should not loiter longer at this brook:
Come with me home.
The stars rise, the moon bends her arc,
Each glowworm winks her spark,
Let us get home before the night grows dark:
For clouds may gather
Though this is summer weather, 
Put out the lights and drench us through;
Then if we lost our way what should we do?' 

       Laura turned cold as stone
To find her sister heard that cry alone,
That goblin cry,
'Come buy our fruits, come buy.'
Must she then buy no more such dainty fruit?
Must she no more such succous pasture find,
Gone deaf and blind?
Her tree of life drooped from the root: 
She said not one word in her heart's sore ache;
But peering thro' the dimness, nought discerning,
Trudged home, her pitcher dripping all the way;
So crept to bed, and lay
Silent till Lizzie slept;
Then sat up in a passionate yearning,
And gnashed her teeth for baulked desire, and wept
As if her heart would break.  

       Day after day, night after night,
Laura kept watch in vain 
In sullen silence of exceeding pain.
She never caught again the goblin cry:
'Come buy, come buy;'—
She never spied the goblin men
Hawking their fruits along the glen:
But when the noon waxed bright
Her hair grew thin and grey;
She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn
To swift decay and burn
Her fire away. 

       One day remembering her kernel-stone
She set it by a wall that faced the south;
Dewed it with tears, hoped for a root,
Watched for a waxing shoot,
But there came none;
It never saw the sun,
It never felt the trickling moisture run:
While with sunk eyes and faded mouth
She dreamed of melons, as a traveller sees
False waves in desert drouth 
With shade of leaf-crowned trees,
And burns the thirstier in the sandful breeze.

       She no more swept the house,
Tended the fowls or cows,
Fetched honey, kneaded cakes of wheat,
Brought water from the brook:
But sat down listless in the chimney-nook
And would not eat.  

       Tender Lizzie could not bear
To watch her sister's cankerous care 
Yet not to share.
She night and morning
Caught the goblins' cry:
'Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:'—
Beside the brook, along the glen,
She heard the tramp of goblin men,
The voice and stir
Poor Laura could not hear;
Longed to buy fruit to comfort her, 
But feared to pay too dear.
She thought of Jeanie in her grave,
Who should have been a bride;
But who for joys brides hope to have
Fell sick and died
In her gay prime,
In earliest Winter time
With the first glazing rime,
With the first snow-fall of crisp Winter time.

       Till Laura dwindling 
Seemed knocking at Death's door:
Then Lizzie weighed no more
Better and worse;
But put a silver penny in her purse,
Kissed Laura, crossed the heath with clumps of furze
At twilight, halted by the brook:
And for the first time in her life
Began to listen and look.

       Laughed every goblin
When they spied her peeping: 
Came towards her hobbling,
Flying, running, leaping,
Puffing and blowing,
Chuckling, clapping, crowing,
Clucking and gobbling,
Mopping and mowing,
Full of airs and graces,
Pulling wry faces,
Demure grimaces,
Cat-like and rat-like, 
Ratel- and wombat-like,
Snail-paced in a hurry,
Parrot-voiced and whistler,
Helter skelter, hurry skurry,
Chattering like magpies,
Fluttering like pigeons,
Gliding like fishes,—
Hugged her and kissed her:
Squeezed and caressed her:
Stretched up their dishes, 
Panniers, and plates:
'Look at our apples
Russet and dun,
Bob at our cherries,
Bite at our peaches,
Citrons and dates,
Grapes for the asking,
Pears red with basking
Out in the sun,
Plums on their twigs; 
Pluck them and suck them,
Pomegranates, figs.'—  

       'Good folk,' said Lizzie,
Mindful of Jeanie:
'Give me much and many:'—
Held out her apron,
Tossed them her penny.
'Nay, take a seat with us,
Honour and eat with us,'
They answered grinning: 
'Our feast is but beginning.
Night yet is early,
Warm and dew-pearly,
Wakeful and starry:
Such fruits as these
No man can carry;
Half their bloom would fly,
Half their dew would dry,
Half their flavour would pass by.
Sit down and feast with us, 
Be welcome guest with us,
Cheer you and rest with us.'—
'Thank you,' said Lizzie: 'But one waits
At home alone for me:
So without further parleying,
If you will not sell me any
Of your fruits though much and many,
Give me back my silver penny
I tossed you for a fee.'—
They began to scratch their pates, 
No longer wagging, purring,
But visibly demurring,
Grunting and snarling.
One called her proud,
Cross-grained, uncivil;
Their tones waxed loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her,
Elbowed and jostled her, 
Clawed with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soiled her stocking,
Twitched her hair out by the roots,
Stamped upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeezed their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.

       White and golden Lizzie stood,
Like a lily in a flood,—
Like a rock of blue-veined stone 
Lashed by tides obstreperously,—
Like a beacon left alone
In a hoary roaring sea,
Sending up a golden fire,—
Like a fruit-crowned orange-tree
White with blossoms honey-sweet
Sore beset by wasp and bee,—
Like a royal virgin town
Topped with gilded dome and spire
Close beleaguered by a fleet 
Mad to tug her standard down.  

       One may lead a horse to water,
Twenty cannot make him drink.
Though the goblins cuffed and caught her,
Coaxed and fought her,
Bullied and besought her,
Scratched her, pinched her black as ink,
Kicked and knocked her,
Mauled and mocked her,
Lizzie uttered not a word; 
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in:
But laughed in heart to feel the drip
Of juice that syrupped all her face,
And lodged in dimples of her chin,
And streaked her neck which quaked like curd.
At last the evil people,
Worn out by her resistance,
Flung back her penny, kicked their fruit
Along whichever road they took, 
Not leaving root or stone or shoot;
Some writhed into the ground,
Some dived into the brook
With ring and ripple,
Some scudded on the gale without a sound,
Some vanished in the distance.

       In a smart, ache, tingle,
Lizzie went her way;
Knew not was it night or day;
Sprang up the bank, tore thro' the furze, 
Threaded copse and dingle,
And heard her penny jingle
Bouncing in her purse,—
Its bounce was music to her ear.
She ran and ran
As if she feared some goblin man
Dogged her with gibe or curse
Or something worse:
But not one goblin skurried after,
Nor was she pricked by fear; 
The kind heart made her windy-paced
That urged her home quite out of breath with haste
And inward laughter.  

       She cried 'Laura,' up the garden,
'Did you miss me?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew. 
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me:
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.'  

       Laura started from her chair,
Flung her arms up in the air,
Clutched her hair:
'Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tasted
For my sake the fruit forbidden?
Must your light like mine be hidden, 
Your young life like mine be wasted,
Undone in mine undoing,
And ruined in my ruin,
Thirsty, cankered, goblin-ridden?'—
She clung about her sister,
Kissed and kissed and kissed her:
Tears once again
Refreshed her shrunken eyes,
Dropping like rain
After long sultry drouth; 
Shaking with aguish fear, and pain,
She kissed and kissed her with a hungry mouth.

       Her lips began to scorch,
That juice was wormwood to her tongue,
She loathed the feast:
Writhing as one possessed she leaped and sung,
Rent all her robe, and wrung
Her hands in lamentable haste.
And beat her breast.
Her locks streamed like the torch 
Borne by a racer at full speed,
Or like the mane of horses in their flight,
Or like an eagle when she stems the light
Straight toward the sun,
Or like a caged thing freed,
Or like a flying flag when armies run.  

       Swift fire spread through her veins, knocked at her heart,
Met the fire smouldering there
And overbore its lesser flame;
She gorged on bitterness without a name: 
Ah! fool, to choose such part
Of soul-consuming care!
Sense failed in the mortal strife:
Like the watch-tower of a town
Which an earthquake shatters down,
Like a lightning-stricken mast,
Like a wind-uprooted tree
Spun about,
Like a foam-topped waterspout
Cast down headlong in the sea, 
She fell at last;
Pleasure past and anguish past,
Is it death or is it life?  

      Life out of death.
That night long Lizzie watched by her,
Counted her pulse's flagging stir,
Felt for her breath,
Held water to her lips, and cooled her face
With tears and fanning leaves:
But when the first birds chirped about their eaves, 
And early reapers plodded to the place
Of golden sheaves,
And dew-wet grass
Bowed in the morning winds so brisk to pass,
And new buds with new day
Opened of cup-like lilies on the stream,
Laura awoke as from a dream,
Laughed in the innocent old way,
Hugged Lizzie but not twice or thrice;
Her gleaming locks showed not one thread of grey, 
Her breath was sweet as May
And light danced in her eyes.  

       Days, weeks, months, years
Afterwards, when both were wives
With children of their own;
Their mother-hearts beset with fears,
Their lives bound up in tender lives;
Laura would call the little ones
And tell them of her early prime,
Those pleasant days long gone 
Of not-returning time:
Would talk about the haunted glen,
The wicked, quaint fruit-merchant men,
Their fruits like honey to the throat
But poison in the blood;
(Men sell not such in any town:)
Would tell them how her sister stood
In deadly peril to do her good,
And win the fiery antidote:
Then joining hands to little hands 
Would bid them cling together,
'For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.'


  1. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Wormwood is a bitter tasting plant. It is often used to make vermouth, absinthe and other tempting adult beverages. Given that context, this metaphor conveys the idea that temptations lead to bitterness.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. A “gibe” is a taunt or sneer. The word “dogged” is interesting because it describes the way in which the goblins pursue Lizzie, but it also underscores the animal quality of the goblins.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. The colors Rossetti uses to describe Lizzie are important. White and gold symbolize purity and divinity. Angels are often depicted in these colors, draped in white robes and graced by a floating golden halo above their heads. Lizzie is depicted this way because of her continued purity, even when confronted with temptations of the goblins and their delicious but wicked fruit.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. It is crucial that Lizzie does not eat the fruit. By not doing so, she maintains the purity of her soul, even as the goblins besmirch her with the juice of their wicked fruits. This decision marks the climax and turning point of the story. By weathering the storm of temptation, Lizzie will put herself in a position to heal Laura.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. The diction here—“grunting and snarling”—serves to underscore the animal brutality of the goblins. The goblins represent the animal side of human nature, which is generally controlled and suppressed in civilized society. Rossetti wants us to understand that a great deal of violence and sexuality can be found in that animal side.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. The verb “to parley” means to speak, specifically in the discussion of terms. Lizzie and the goblins are locked in negotiation. Lizzie wants the goblins’ fruit in order to heal Laura. The goblins want to defile Lizzie.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. Unlike Laura, Lizzie recalls the cautionary tale of Jeanie and thus enters into the goblin market with a greater degree of wariness.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. In the preceding thirty lines, Rossetti gives us a familiar description of the goblins and their fruit. In some cases, the language is identical to that used to depict Laura’s encounter early in the poem. These descriptions immerse us again in the scene of the market.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  12. A “pannier” is a picnic basket. It is a French word, typical of Rossetti’s willfully high style of diction.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  13. The narrator ends the story with a concrete moral: familial love is the key to resisting temptation and preserving one’s life.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  14. In order to plunge into the territory of the goblins, Lizzie must focus her senses and attune herself to the strange environment. She must “beg[in] to listen and look” in ways she has not needed to before. This mission will push Lizzie to the edge of her abilities and test her character in new ways.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  15. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  16. The noun “rime” literally refers to frost, a symptom of winter’s descent. Figuratively, a rime is a poem or tale. This second, figurative definition is put to use here as well, for the words and lines themselves are the rime about the rime.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  17. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  18. Winter is a classic poetic symbol for old age and death. Jeanie’s improper actions brought on an “early winter,” which aged her prematurely.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  19. While these commands, “suck,” “kiss,” “hug,” could be read for their sexual connotations, the Christian imagery that dominates the end of this poem encourages us to read these words as indicative of religious love instead. At the end of the poem, Laura’s love for the divine Lizzie replaces her longing for the fruit, a symbol of erotic desire. In this way, the poem offers a solution to resisting desire: love and faith in God.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  20. According to Victorian expectations, a woman’s function was to get married. Jeanie’s indulgence in the goblin’s fruit can be read as a metaphor for having sex before marriage. In this reading, she dies as a result of her moral misstep.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  21. Lizzie understands the grave cost of the fruit. To buy the fruit would require her to pay with her very life. As much as Lizzie loves her sister, such a cost is simply too great.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  22. At this time, the adjective “odorous” meant sweet-smelling or pleasantly fragrant.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  23. The adjective “cankerous” means of cankers, as in “diseased” or “decaying.” The noun “care” in this context means “trouble” or “grief.” So, the “cankerous care” refers to Laura’s ailment as a result of having eaten of the Goblins’ fruit.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  24. The adjective “pellucid” means transparent or clear. These grapes are figured as the most perfect form of their kind.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  25. Daisies are flowers that symbolize innocence and purity. That they do not grow on Jeanie’s grave suggests that she was what Victorian audiences would have called a “fallen woman,” a woman who sacrificed her innocence and fell from the grace of God. The barren grave could also be symbolic of unhallowed ground, a burial site that is not graced by God.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  26. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  27. The noun “noonlight” means the light of the sun at noon, or the brightest or clearest light of the day.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  28. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  29. The adjective “baulked” means “stopped” or “prevented.” Laura is tormented by her overwhelming and unquenchable desire for the goblin fruit. She is so tormented that she begins to act like the goblins. She “gnash[es] her teeth” in an aggressive, animalistic, goblin-like manner. She is paying the price for her reckless pursuit of pleasure.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  30. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  31. 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.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  32. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  33. Because Laura does not have money to buy the fruit she pays with a lock of her hair. Metaphorically, this means she is paying with her body. In the Victorian era, locks of hair were exchanged between lovers as a symbol of their commitments to each other. However, Laura trades her hair to indulge in sweet fruit rather than to secure a marriage to a loved one. This payment suggests that the poem is a metaphor for the dangers of sacrificing chastity in order to give in to temptation.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  34. The adjective “succous” means “sweet” or “juicy.” It comes from the Latin succus for “juice.” Laura remembers the delicious, succulent goblin fruit and craves more. She despairs at the thought of never tasting that tasty but wicked fruit ever again.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  35. This powerful metaphor for evil is one of the most quoted lines from this poem. "Hungry thirsty roots" and "fed" suggest overconsumption. In speculating "what" these fruits were eating, Lizzie suggests that they were indulging in something evil or suspect. This metaphor underscores a larger theme within the poem: that which one eats defines them and can taint them forever.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  36. The adjective “iterated” indicates a pattern of alternation and repetition, of renewed or repeated action. The “iterated jingle” is “‘Come buy, come buy,’” with its back-and-forth diction.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  37. The contrasting descriptions of the girls makes clear the different positions they are in. Lizzie, with her “placid” look, has not been soiled by the goblins and their wicked fruit. Laura has been soiled, and thus is described with the hellish simile “like a leaping flame.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  38. A “furze” is a spiny evergreen shrub with yellow flowers, growing abundantly on waste lands throughout Europe. This familiar plant is juxtaposed with the exotic fruit that the goblins are selling in order to emphasize the disconnection between Laura’s everyday life and the exciting world she has come in contact with.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  39. The verb “purloin” means to steal under circumstances which involve a breach of trust. In using this verb, Laura claims that she could not take money from her sister Lizzie because it would not only be stealing but deceptive. Laura seems to acknowledge that her sister does not want her to buy or eat this fruit.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  40. “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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  41. Rossetti has maintained a continuing metaphor of the girls as birds. Lizzie in particular is bird-like in her purity. Unspoiled, she “warbl[es]” as birds do for the “bright day’s delight.” Her attraction to this brightness is pure and reveals her pure nature.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  42. These fruits cannot be found in a typical market. This gives a supernatural undertone to the goblins and their merchandise; while they seem to sell familiar fruits, they are actually peddling malevolent magic.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  43. The repetition in these lines gives a simple description of each goblin. Much like a child’s fairy tale or story, this type of repetition creates a singsong tone and an easy-to-understand setting. While this story takes on the tone and style of a children’s story, it can be read as a cautionary tale for adults with larger social implications.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  44. Rossetti frequently crafts lists of similes like this in order to create a feeling of emphasis. Often the content of the similes is not as important as the tone. For example, in the image of “wands of ivory/Tipped with gold for awful kings,” the purpose and referent of the phrase “awful kings” is not clear. Ending the list of similes with the “awful kings,” however, injects an ominous tone into the otherwise tender scene.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  45. In this context, the adjective “queer” means strange, odd, or peculiar. Notice that while Laura seems unaware of the danger these goblins pose to her, the narrator’s word choice hints to the reader that there might be something sinister about the goblins.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  46. The verb “leering” means to look at something with an expression of slyness, malignity, or immodest desire. Leering connotes malicious intention or evil. The use of this verb further emphasizes the bad intentions of these goblins.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  47. Throughout the poem, Rossetti uses the color of gold to signify goodness and purity. Although Laura has eaten of the goblin fruit, leaving her impure, the image of the two golden heads together indicates the redemptive power of sisterly love, which is one of the poem’s main themes.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  48. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  49. A “ratel” is a type of honey badger which would have been exotic to Victorian readers. Notice that the goblins are not only portrayed as animalistic but also exotic. They are so strange that they must be a combination of familiar and imaginary beasts.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  50. A “wombat” is an Australian marsupial with rodent-like teeth and claws that burrows into the ground. The British empire began to colonize Australia in 1770 and began passing land rights laws in the 1830s. Rossetti’s mention of this strange exotic animal both paints the goblins as strange creatures and reveals the colonial backdrop of this poem. Written in 1859, “Goblin Market” could also be read as indicative of anxiety about Britain's growing colonial empire: these new places were so different from Europe that they might have seemed threatening to a Victorian mindset.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  51. Notice how the depiction of the goblins shifts throughout the poem. They begin as mythological monsters, then become male goblins, then become “merchant men.” This progression advances the metaphorical reading of this poem as a Victorian allegory against sexual temptation and the preservation of one’s chastity. In this way, the goblins represent men tempting women into sexual deviance.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  52. The adjective “dimpled” means plump, chubby, or fat. Generally dimples connote innocence, youth, or purity. Lizzie uses her “dimpled fingers” to shut out the dangerous noise of the goblins and their temptation, signifying that Lizzie is innocent and pure down to her fingers.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  53. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  54. Here, the narrator uses the verb “peep” rather than “look.” Peep means to look through a narrow space, such as half-shut eyes, a crack in a fence, or other type of small opening. It suggests a secret or stolen glance at something forbidden. It also casts the person who does the “peeping” as dangerously indulgent: they know they should not look, but do so anyway. The use of this verb tells the audience that Lizzie has warned Laura against looking at the goblins before, and perhaps that Laura has taken in this forbidden sight before.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  55. The goblins are characterized as beastly and decrepit. The verb “hobbling” signifies moving in an uneven, clumsy, or otherwise graceless manner. It is generally used to connote old age or corruption. This depiction of the goblins sharply contrasts the innocent, golden depiction of the two girls: the goblins are corrupted while the girls are innocent.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  56. A “copse,” or a “coppice,” is a thicket, grove, or growth of small trees, whereas a “dingle” is a dell or hollow shaded with trees. Little details like this help illustrate Lizzie’s journey back from the goblin market by showing the confusing variety of the landscape.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  57. Lizzie’s moment of triumph reinforces the theme of the story: resisting temptation leads to righteousness. Notice too how the goblin men’s failure to make her indulge causes them all to abandon their fruit and vanish. Despite the terrible injuries and humiliation the goblin men put upon her, Lizzie stoically handles the abuse and defeats her tormentors.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  58. The verb “to maul” has several meanings; however, two are particularly relevant here. First, the verb can mean to attack and injure someone in a way that damages skin, causing bloody injury. Second, this verb can also mean to touch, harm, or handle someone in a rough, sexual way. Such a word choice underscores the brutality of the goblin men with the young maid as they try to force her to submit to them.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  59. This is a slightly altered form of the 12th-century English proverb “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink.” Essentially, it means that you can give someone an opportunity, but you cannot force them to take it. The narrator draws on this saying but substitutes the number twenty to convey the magnitude of force the goblins apply to Lizzie, the proverbial horse in this scenario.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  60. The adjective “beleaguered” means “besieged,” “invested,” or “beset” and conveys an image of someone or something being completely surrounded. In this case, Lizzie stands alone while the goblin hordes force themselves and their fruit upon her.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  61. 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.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  62. The adjective “hoary” has several meanings, and nearly all of them apply in this extended simile. On one level, “hoary” simple means a white or gray coloring to one’s hair. The sea, then, has whitecaps. On another level, this adjective means “ancient, venerable from age, or time-honored,” and the ocean has often been considered an ancient, mysterious place deserving of respect. Both of these meanings derive from depictions of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, who is often characterized as hoary, or gray-haired, ancient, and deserving of respect.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  63. In order to convey how aggressively the goblin men attack Lizzie, the narrator utilizes several similes. Here, the goblin assault is depicted as waves crashing “obstreperously” against Lizzie, the rock of “blue-veined stone.” The adverb “obstreperously” emphasizes the impact of the assault, because it means clamorously and noisily.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  64. In this simile, Lizzie is depicted as a “blue-veined stone.” The color of her veins, and therefore blood, in this simile is important. Blue blood is an expression that characterizes old, noble, upper-class ancestry. This adds to the divine aspect of Lizzie as she bears the brunt of the goblin men’s aggression to save her sister.

    — Wesley, Owl Eyes Editor
  65. While at the beginning of the poem the goblins are just monsters from folklore, now they are specified as “men.” This creates a connection between the tempting fruit and the masculine threat to chastity. In the Victorian era in which this was written, female sexuality was strictly regulated and restricted. A woman who exhibited desire or had extramarital sex was seen as a “fallen woman,” an unworthy deviant. To these two “maids” the most threatening temptation would be men and the carnal desire they trigger.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  66. Throughout the poem, gold is a symbol for godliness and purity. In Christian imagery, golden halos are painted on saints and other holy people. Heaven is thought to be populated by angels so gloriously beautiful that they appear in a golden beam of light. The “golden hair” of these sisters shows that they are pure and that they belong in the Garden of Eden.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  67. Notice the different reactions the two sisters have. While Lizzie actively resists her response to the call of the goblins, Laura engages her curiosity. This moment foreshadows that Laura will be the character who is more susceptible to the goblin’s temptations.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  68. The metaphor “sound to eye” is a form of synesthesia, interpreting a stimulus generally experienced by a particular sense using another: hearing color, seeing sound, etc. This type of metaphor generally signifies an overloading of the senses, and in this context makes the fruit overwhelmingly sweet, brilliant, and tempting.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  69. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  70. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  71. Given the religious symbolism of apples and the Christian imagery throughout the poem, the seemingly eternal nature of this fruit could be read as an allusion to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  72. After presenting the audience with a long catalogue of exotic fruit, the narrator says that all the fruit are “ripe together.” Since fruits have different seasons that in this time would have made them each unavailable during certain times of the year, the notion that the fruit would be “all ripe together” gives the fruit supernatural characteristics.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  73. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  74. 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.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  75. The noun “maids” refers to virginal or chaste women. The main characters of this poem are portrayed as innocent and under the threat of temptation. Setting up the poem in this way suggests a thematic undertone of both resisting temptation and preserving one’s chastity.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff