Laura and Lizzie are two young women who live in the same house and work on a farm. They milk cows every day, make cakes, churn butter, etc. In the evenings, Laura and Lizzie go to the brook and hear the cries of the goblin merchants (salesmen). They try to...
Laura and Lizzie are two young women who live in the same house and work on a farm. They milk cows every day, make cakes, churn butter, etc. In the evenings, Laura and Lizzie go to the brook and hear the cries of the goblin merchants (salesmen). They try to ignore the lure and temptation of the goblins' products. Lizzie says, "No, no, no; / Their offers should not charm us, / Their evil gifts would harm us.” Laura looks back and succumbs to the temptation. She has no money, so she offers a lock of her hair. She gorges herself on their fruits until she is left only with the rinds and one kernel (seed).
Lizzie scolds Laura when she returns and reminds her about Jeanie who also ate the goblins' fruits and died from it. Laura has become addicted to the fruit, so she waits for the merchants to return. They do not. Laura tries to plant the seed but nothing grows from it. She can no longer hear the merchants' cries, but Lizzie can. While Laura continues to physically weaken, Lizzie finally decides to meet the merchants. Lizzie takes a silver penny and offers it to them. They try to persuade her to stay and eat with them. Lizzie refuses. They badger and punish her, leaving the fruit juices all over her. She returns and Laura drinks the juice from Lizzie's face and clothes. Instead of being the wonderful juice she had tasted before, it is repulsive to Laura but it cures her of the addiction. It has become an antidote.
There is certainly an allusion to the Garden of Eden in this poem. The difference here is that there are two women rather than one woman and one man (Adam and Eve). And since Lizzie is able to withstand the temptation, there is the sentiment that the bond between "sisters" is strong, perhaps stronger than that of a marriage. Since the poem illustrates this strong female bond, it has been interpreted by some critics to suggest a pro-feminist message. Some interpretations also suggest a pro-homosexual theme, or at least a critique of heterosexuality, with goblin merchants being men/serpents of temptation. Lizzie is also seen as a Christ figure, withstanding the temptation and challenging merchants (moneylenders). She offers the juice off of herself and this seems like an allusion to the Last Supper. So, there are Christian symbols as well as progressive interpretations in this poem.