Perverse or Folly? Is the “Goblin Market” Really a Kids Poem?
After reading the “Goblin Market” poem, I was left with an uneasy feeling between the perverse and folly; I was left pondering the multiple end meanings of the poem. Christina Rossetti, the poem’s creator, embodies these two feelings by punning on the sexual/temptation of experience, and the foolish/folly of child archetypes. As an adult I was left with mixed emotions because of having experienced the innocence in folly, and at the same time, fully understanding sexuality and temptation.
To begin with, Rossetti attracts both child and adult readers with epanalepsis: “come buy, come buy” (line 4). The repetition continues throughout this work, setting a playful tone; the conflict in interest lies when epanalepsis is used to reiterate something sexual: “She sucked and sucked and sucked the more Fruits which that unknown orchard bore; she sucked until her lips were sore” (134). Clearly, this is borderline sexual. Laura sucks fruits from the goblin’s unknown orchard until her lips became sore – this orchard represents a tree, shooting out of the earth, offering it’s seeds. The orchard tree can be viewed as the goblin’s sexuality, and her sucking on the fruits can be viewed as her enjoyment in sensual seduction.
Yet, in accordance with the ‘innocence’ of the potential reader, assuming we all experience innocence at one time, the poem still reads as jubilee and silly with a quick rhythm. Could only an adult mind see it as perverse and folly?
Another manner in which Rossetti concocts this scheme is by leaving the end open. In the last stanza, she jumps from Lizzie and Laura being young, to both of them being mothers. An explanation is never dispelled for the exact antidote that Lizzie brings to Laura. Perhaps it is because as adult readers we are just expected to know what the cure is, since we have experienced life, which might be one explanation for the two sisters handing down their knowledge, from the experienced to the innocent. But “Goblin Market” never distinguishes what really cured Laura, leaving the reader to wonder and at the same time still have an idea of what occurred. Rossetti plays on both realities to conflict what is really going to the adult reader.
To the child reader, the scenes are seen as comical or colorful but to the adult reader, whose knowledge would also include the child reader, the scenes can be seen as explicitly sexual with euphemisms. These sexual euphemisms serve as visual guides to the perverse and folly. “Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices” are not normal words one would find in a child’s poem.
Within the poem, “Goblin Market,” the sexual is sublime and it’s childlike folly is apparent for us adult readers. Rosetti has fused both of these elements to seduce both, our experience and our innocence, and once again, question ourselves about what is learned in our very own lives.
Willy Martinez is a creative writer, film director, editor, publisher boxing coach and non-fiction writer. Since being honorably discharged from the Marines in 2004, he has pursued his passion for telling stories, whether they be through film, graphic design, and writing for digital art.
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