Goblin Market and Other Poems was the first book of poetry that Christina Rossetti published, although her grandfather had privately printed a collection of her juvenilia when she was seventeen. Despite its appearance at the beginning of her literary career, Goblin Market and Other Poems contains some of her finest and most enduring writing: the title poem, “Goblin Market,” still her best-known work: “Up-Hill,” “After Death,” “Remember,” “The Three Enemies,” “A Better Resurrection,” “An Apple Gathering,” “Advent,” “The Convent Threshold,” “Dead Before Death,” “A Triad,” “Winter: My Secret,” and “No, Thank You, John,” among others. Though Rossetti would continue writing for another thirty years, no later poems surpassed these.
“Goblin Market,” her most anthologized and discussed poem, is also, at 567 lines, one of her longest. A narrative poem (a rarity for Rossetti), it tells the story of two sisters, Laura and Lizzie, and their close brush with a sinister group of goblin merchants. The first of the twenty-nine irregular stanzas simply records the cries of the goblin men for someone to buy their magical fruits. In the following stanzas, Laura and Lizzie listen to the tantalizing cries; Lizzie warns Laura not to succumb to temptation, reminding her of the fate of their friend Jeanie who, after tasting the goblin fruit, wasted away with premature age and died. Laura ignores the warning, and, though she has no money, buys the enchanted fruit with a lock of her golden hair.
The fruit delights Laura, but leaves her wanting more, which she cannot have since she can no longer see or hear the goblins. Her addiction becomes her obsession, and she pines away for the fruit, not eating or sleeping and, like Jeanie, dwindling and turning gray. The...
(The entire section is 750 words.)