So, we've finished Lady Chatterley's Lover! What a journey that was. Our next book is actually a fifty-eight page poem called Goblin Market, by Christina Rossetti. It was first published in 1862 and was very well received. Rossetti's brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, is a famous pre-Raphaelite painter, and his works are featured alongside the poem in the edition I have. His Proserpine (pictured left), a depiction of a woman from Greek mythology more commonly known as Persephone, is featured on the cover of the book and embodies the themes of forbidden pleasures in his sister's poem.
The poem begins with three goblins trying to tempt the beautiful, virginal sisters Lizzie and Laura into buying their fruit. The fruit becomes a clear metaphor for corruption, as in the Persephone story and the Biblical story of Adam and Eve:
'"No," said Lizzie: "No, no, no;
Their offers should not charm us,
Their evil gifts would harm us"' (7)
Lizzie then runs away so as not to be tempted. Laura, however, stays and observes the goblin men as they approach her somewhat suggestively:
"Brother with queer brother;Signaling each other,Brother with sly brother" (10).
As they offer her fruits and flower-wreaths and other delights, she longs to accept, but says she has no money to pay with. The goblins urge her to "Buy from [them] with a golden curl" of hair (13). So she gives them a lock of her hair and in return, they give her fruit:
"She sucked and sucked and sucked the moreFruits which that unknown orchard bore;She sucked until her lips were sore;Then flung the emptied rinds away" (14)
Doesn't that just sound dirty? Upon her return home, her sister Lizzie upbraids her for lingering:
"Should not loiter in the glenIn 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 flowersPlucked from bowersWhere summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the noonlightShe pined and pined away;Sought them by night and day,Found them no more, but dwindled and grew gray" (15-16)
Jeanie died from want of the fruit of the goblin men. Laura, however, pays no mind to Lizzie's warning, regales her with the wonders of the fruit, and promises to buy more for both of them tomorrow night. They spend the next day, "Lizzie with an open heart,/Laura in an absent dream,/One content, one sick in part" (22). When the evening comes and they go into the glen again, Laura is "most like a leaping flame" (22). In Lady Chatterley's Lover, Oliver in particular was described as experiencing a leaping flame in his bowels when arousal first hit him, and he refers to his and Connie's love in the end as the "little flame" between them (331).
At length Lizzie hears the goblin's cry, but Laura does not:
"Laura turned cold as stoneTo 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?[...]Her tree of life drooped from the root:She said not one word in her heart's sore ache;[...]So crept to bed, and laySilent till Lizzie slept;Then sat up in a passionate yearning,And gnashed her teeth for baulked desire, and weptAs if her heart would break" (26-27).
So it appears Laura is out of favor with the goblins, and like Jeanie, she craves the "fruit" again. Stay tuned for the dramatic conclusion of Goblin Market in the next post!