Goblin Market


"Unholy Senses"

The poem "Goblin Market", by Christina Rossetti, relates the ethical tale of two sisters, Laura and Lizzie. Rossetti constructs the poem surrounding the two women who are unable to access their fully developed intuitions without being subsumed by the men who provide sensory delights. Rossetti establishes this through characterizing the base physical senses as an unfit endeavor for young women to experience. The character Laura, in the poem, is led through a tortuous experience because she follows her intuitions to follow the Goblin men, who through Rossetti's richly laden verse, are characterized as animalistic and morally debase. Laura is saved by her sister Lizzie, whose character reveals Rossetti's wish to propagate a life devoid of sensory experience, because it will lead to a greater reward after death. Therefore, Christina Rossetti deems the physical senses as an inappropriate and unholy means of expression for women in her didactic poem "Goblin Market".
Laura is more willing than Lizzie to induce her sensory perceptions and this leads to her demise. Laura the unwholesome sister of "Goblin Market", is stimulated and seduced by the Goblins. The first movement of the poem adheres strictly to her senses. This is all the while Lizzie reprimands Laura for "loiter[ing] in the glen", (ln. 144) with the Goblin men. Although, Laura is severely punished because of her greedy pursuit of pleasure by Rossetti.
The dichotomous position of the two sister's moral stances on the fulfillment of pleasure in eating the "fruit" is exampled in the first two stanzas of the poem. Laura pronounces, "Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie" (ln. 54), as she tries to engage her sister in sharing a glance at the Goblin men. Lizzie is the consummate modest woman as "She thrust a dimpled finger/ In each ear, shut eyes and ran" (ln. 67-68). Lizzie refuses the "eye candy" that Laura indulges in. Lizzie tries to get Laura to resist by stating that "Their offers should not charm us/ Their evil gifts would harm us", (ln. 65-66).
Laura does not heed her sister's warning, but rather satisfies herself with the Goblin men, and consequently, her senses dry up and she quickly withers. Rossetti writes that Laura could no longer her the Goblin men and "turned as cold as stone" (ln. 253), and she wonders if she has "Gone deaf and blind?" (ln 259). Rossetti does not reward Laura for her sumptuous deeds that took place at the Goblin Market. Laura's life and youth must be relinquished, because her curiosity led her to abuse her physical senses. This is exposed through Rossetti's repetition of verbs as Laura feeds upon the fruit of the Goblin men, "She sucked and sucked and sucked the more?She sucked until her lips were sore" (ln. 134,136).
Through sound and sight, the Goblin men lead the sisters to involve their sensory perceptions of taste, touch, and smell. The Goblin men invite Laura and Lizzie to partake in the physical realm and Rossetti's imagery insinuates the hedonistic value of their indulgent pleasures. The reader is inundated by the "Come buy" phrase that becomes the signature phrase of the Goblin men. Rossetti goes to elaborate visual lengths to describe the animalistic creatures that entice the young Laura. After the sisters decide to engage with the Goblin's, Lizzie is besieged physically by the Goblins and Laura's sense of smell and taste are enriched directly following her occurrence with the men. Through these examples, it is proven that Goblin men are directly correlated with the world of perception and senses, and that the two sisters cannot comply because it will lead to their ruin.
With the phrase "Come buy", the sisters are lured into the goblins world and their procurements. The poem opens with the familiar phrase of "Come buy" (ln. 3), and it is repeated eighteen additional times in the 567 line poem. The phrase when read aloud could also indicate that the Goblins want the maids to "come by" their haunts. For the goblins never take money from either Laura or Lizzie, but the goblins wish for some company and eventually kick back the coin that Lizzie gives them. Poetically, the phrase is so oft repeated that it becomes a subliminal message to the reader, and is no surprise when Laura takes the goblins up on their offer.
After Laura hears the goblins cry, she peeks at them although Lizzie cries, "Laura,