Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti
5th December 1830-29th December 1894

Rossetti was born in London in 1830 and began writing at the age of 7 but it was only at the age of 18 that one of her poems was published in the Athenaeum magazine.
She had a troubled childhood, as her family were suffering from financial difficulties, which resulted in Rossetti suffering a nervous breakdown at 14.
From this experience she became very interested in the Anglo-Catholic movement, which played a big role in her life.

Whilst writing poetry, woman's suffrage was a big issue that many people think affected the way in which she wrote. Woman's suffrage refers to the economic and political reform movement, which attempted to give women the right to vote etc. Although Rossetti said she was uncertain about this movement, many scholors identify feminist themes in her poetry.
As women were becoming more politically active during the 19th century, many people identified her as a feminist. Critics believed that the Goblin Market was an example of a feminist poem, as it portrayed an independent woman- Lizzie who was able to resist the temptation of the goblin men.

However she was a very opinionated person- opposed to war, experimentation on animals and the exploitation of under age girls in prostitution. These were also important issues at the time that have affected her poetry.

Her best known works are as follows;
Goblin Market (1862)- known as an expression of Rossetti's feminism but is really a poem about feminine sexuality and how it relates to Victorian morality.
In the Bleak Midwinter (1872)- a Christmas poem.


Goblin Market

Goblin Market was published in 1862, written by poet Christina Rossetti.
The poem’s main theme is temptation, specifically the temptation of the forbidden fruit, which originates from the story of Adam and Eve. When a person knows they mustn’t do or taste something, it appeals to them all the more.
Goblin Market centres around two sisters called Laura and Lizzie, growing up in the Victorian era.
Every evening the sisters would go to the brook side and hear the voices of the goblin men; tempting them to taste their fruit ‘“Come buy,” call the goblins/ Hobbling down the glen’. Lizzie is not tempted by their cries, knowing that she must not eat their fruit, for she will be cursed. However Laura listens intently to their cries, looking around in search for them. Her sister resists and says ‘Their offers should not charm us/ Their evil gifts would harm us’.  Lizzie is the stronger willed of the two and is able to run away, leaving her sister who is still intrigued by the men. ‘They sounded kind and full of loves’ says Laura, who is being deceived by the men, which shows her naivety. The goblin men could be a metaphor for men in general, as women in the Victorian era should not have given in to men’s affections in such a way.
Similes are used for Laura to describe her interest in these men- ‘Laura stretched her gleaming neck/ Like a rush- imbedded swan/ Like a lily from the beck/ Like a moonlit poplar branch/ Like a vessel at the launch/ When its last restraint is gone’. The similes used describe how Laura cranes her neck in order to see the goblin men. They appear and ask if she wants their fruit, she says she has no money, which they do not want- “Buy from us with a golden curl” they say. This reflects how they want to own a piece of her, which means they will have some sort of hold on her.
‘She sucked and sucked and sucked the more/ Fruits which that unknown orchard bore/ She sucked until her lips were sore’ this may be an example of the sexual imagery in the poem, which critics picked up, saying the poem wasn’t suitable for its targeted audience- children.
Laura returns home where Lizzie is waiting for her, who tells her of the story of a girl named Jeanie, who also succumbed to the goblin men, with drastic consequences. ‘She pined and pined away/ Sought them by night and day/ Found them no more, but dwindled and grew gray/ Then fell with the first snow’ says Lizzie, although Laura does not listen to her sister’s pleas that it is not safe, as she tells her she will return tomorrow. The fruit is an addiction to her, which she describes as her source of happiness, saying she is done with sorrow and needs the fruit.
The next day the sisters get to work on their daily routine, which consist of milking the cows, fetching honey etc. ‘Lizzie with an open heart/ Laura in an absent dream/ One content, one sick in part/ One warbling for the mere bright day’s delight/ One longing for the night’ this emphasises the contrast of the sisters, which reiterates how strong willed Lizzie is in comparison to her sister, who has given in to the goblin men.
The sisters go back to the brook and Laura cannot get the goblin men out of her mind- ‘Listening ever, but not catching/ The customary cry/ “Come buy, come buy”'. Laura can no longer hear the men but Lizzie can, which means now the men have gotten a piece of Laura and possibly corrupted her and used her up they do not want to see her again, therefore only Lizzie can hear them.
Laura has such intense feelings over the fact the goblin men did not show up and the next day ‘Her hair grew thin and gray/ She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn/ To swift decay, and burn/ Her fire away’ – she is suffering the same fate as Jeanie, who died shortly after she ate the fruit. Laura goes back to the brook day by day and could not work her daily routine. Laura ‘Longed to buy fruit to comfort her/ But feared to pay too dear’, her sister is willing to make a sacrifice for her sister and buy the fruit on her behalf. She decides what she must do, as her sister is at deaths door.
Laura goes to the brook and spies the men, who appear more menacingly than they did for her sister. ‘Came towards her hobbling/ Flying, running, leaping/ Puffing and blowing/ Chuckling, clapping, crowing’, they arrive and try to tempt Laura into buying their fruits, who offers them money. They urge her to sit with them, possibly knowing her plan and wanting her to stay so that they can use her the way they did her sister. Her resistance angers them ‘One called her proud/ Cross- grained, uncivil/ Their tones waxed loud/ Their looks were evil’, as they try to make her eat their fruit. They attack her violently, yet she still resists them. ‘Lizzie uttered not a word/ Would not open lip from lip/ Lest they should cram a mouthful in’, this is also another sexual image, but is also expresses the idea of feminism, as Lizzie is not giving in. They finally give up, but the fruit is still smeared over Laura’s face as she goes home.
Laura runs to her sister’s side and gives her the fruit she hopes will make her better. Laura begins to kiss her sister with a hungry mouth; hungry for the fruit, which she takes. ‘Her lips began to scorch/ That juice was wormwood to her tongue/ She loathed the feast/ Writhing as one possessed she leaped and sung/ Rent all her robe, and wrung/ Her hands in lamentable haste/ And beat her breast’, it is almost like she is being possessed as the hold the goblin men have on her is being depleted. Modern readers would compare this to a drug addiction, as she craves it so much that she is suffering from withdrawal symptoms. But finally ‘Her gleaming locks showed not one thread of gray/ Her breath was sweet as May/ And light danced in her eyes’ as she recovers from the forbidden fruit.
The poem then skips years later, when the sisters are both wives and mothers. They would called their children and ‘Would talk about the haunted glen/ The wicked, quaint- merchant men’ to warn them of what could happen if they see such men and give in to temptation.
The poem ends with ‘For there is no friend like a sister/ In calm or stormy weather/ To cheer one on the tedious way/ To fetch one if one goes astray/ To life one if one totters down/ To strengthen whilst one stands’, this is the real message of the poem, which expresses appreciation for sisterhood and is an invaluable lesson to children reading, delivered through a narrative poem.

The Observer

The Observer is a newspaper that comes out every Sunday and is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper, as its first issue was published in 1791. It takes a left- liberal view on most issues, which is something I want to get across when I transform the Goblin Market into an article from one of his magazine supplements.
I decided to put the Goblin Men across as terroists of some sort who are exploiting women (Laura and Lizzie).  With this spin I want my politcal allegiance (The Observer Magazines allegiance)  to come across so that the readers will know what side I am on and link the article to the right newspaper.