Goblin Market (excerpt)

Christina Rossetti

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 jingleBouncing in her purse,—Its bounce was music to her ear.She ran and ranAs if she fear’d some goblin manDogg’d her with gibe or curseOr something worse:But not one goblin scurried after,Nor was she prick’d by fear;The kind heart made her windy-pacedThat urged her home quite out of breath with hasteAnd 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 juicesSqueez’d 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 glenAnd had to do with goblin merchant men.”Laura started from her chair,Flung her arms up in the air,Clutch’d her hair:“Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tastedFor my sake the fruit forbidden?Must your light like mine be hidden,Your young life like mine be wasted,Undone in mine undoing,And ruin’d in my ruin,Thirsty, canker’d, goblin-ridden?”—She clung about her sister,Kiss’d and kiss’d and kiss’d her:Tears once againRefresh’d her shrunken eyes,Dropping like rainAfter long sultry drouth;Shaking with aguish fear, and pain,She kiss’d and kiss’d her with a hungry mouth.Her lips began to scorch,That juice was wormwood to her tongue,She loath’d the feast:Writhing as one possess’d she leap’d and sung,Rent all her robe, and wrungHer hands in lamentable haste,And beat her breast.Her locks stream’d like the torchBorne by a racer at full speed,Or like the mane of horses in their flight,Or like an eagle when she stems the lightStraight toward the sun,Or like a caged thing freed,Or like a flying flag when armies run.Swift fire spread through her veins, knock’d at her heart,Met the fire smouldering thereAnd overbore its lesser flame;She gorged on bitterness without a name:Ah! fool, to choose such partOf soul-consuming care!Sense fail’d in the mortal strife:Like the watch-tower of a townWhich an earthquake shatters down,Like a lightning-stricken mast,Like a wind-uprooted treeSpun about,Like a foam-topp’d waterspoutCast 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 watch’d by her,Counted her pulse’s flagging stir,Felt for her breath,Held water to her lips, and cool’d her faceWith tears and fanning leaves:But when the first birds chirp’d about their eaves,And early reapers plodded to the placeOf golden sheaves,And dew-wet grassBow’d in the morning winds so brisk to pass,And new buds with new dayOpen’d of cup-like lilies on the stream,Laura awoke as from a dream,Laugh’d in the innocent old way,Hugg’d Lizzie but not twice or thrice;Her gleaming locks show’d not one thread of grey,Her breath was sweet as MayAnd light danced in her eyes.

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Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was one of the greatest female writers of the nineteenth century. She was born in London into a remarkably creative family; her father was an exiled Italian revolutionary and poet and her brothers William and Dante Gabriel Rossetti were founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. In 1862 Rossetti published her first full collection of poetry, Goblin Market and Other Poems.

Rossetti is unique among Victorian poets for the sheer range of her subject matter and the variety of her verse form. This collection brings together fantasy poems, such as Goblin Market, and terrifyingly vivid verses for children, love lyrics and sonnets, and the vast body of her devotional poetry. Rossetti's poems weave connections between love and death, triumph and loss, heavenly joys and earthly pleasures. The directness and clarity of her lyrics still have the power to startle us with their truth and beauty.

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