The Poem

(Literary Essentials: Poets and Poetry)

“Goblin Market” is Christina Rossetti’s most famous poem. In its first stanza, goblins offer fruit for sale. Goblins are traditionally evil creatures who entice human beings into evil. In stanza 2, the sisters Laura and Lizzie hear goblin cries. Lizzie warns Laura that they are not to look, but Laura does not pay heed. Lizzie, however, puts a finger in each ear, perhaps as much to drown out her sister’s overtures as to stifle the goblin voices. To be noted here is Lizzie’s refusal to allow herself to be overcome carnally. Laura, on the other hand, allows herself to be filled with sight and sound. Lizzie flees; Laura “lingers.”

In successive stanzas, the goblins offer their fruit directly to Laura, who responds that she is without money. To this the goblins reply that a golden lock of her hair will be payment enough. Laura yields, and she sucks the fruit insatiably. Lizzie cautions Laura on her sister’s return, reminding her of Jeanie, who had pined away after eating the goblin fruit. Laura tells of her own eating, which has not diminished her.

There follows an eloquent stanza depictive of the sisters’ oneness, but on the morrow, it is clear that their fates are diverging. Lizzie is happy; Laura longs for more of the goblin fruit, but to no avail. Now, only Lizzie can hear the goblin cries. Day after day, Laura languishes, her health declining, her work neglected.

Lizzie, filled with sorrow for Laura, would like to...

(The entire section is 443 words.)