Goblin Market

This will be the last fairy or other-worldly related poem for a while at least (honest). ‘Goblin Market’ does however, not only tie in with the themes of enchantment on recent days, but also because Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) inherited the mantle of Britain’s most famous female poet from Elizabeth Barrett Browning when she published this poem in 1862. I’ll talk more about Rossetti in a future post, but in the meantime here is a piece from her best known work.

Dover Thrift Edition, 1994

Dover Thrift Edition, 1994

I have only included a small part of Rossetti’s  long poem and I decided to scan in the text from my daughter’s edition of Goblin Market as the type seems pretty clear. Let me know if it doesn’t seem to work with your browser. I mentioned the Dover editions previously and I am a big fan of this publisher’s reasonably priced classic re-prints.


Of course, all of those luscious sounding fruits are only there to tempt the unwary, in this case two sisters named Laura and Lizzie who hear the call of the goblins touting their wares. Their cries of ‘come buy, come buy’ have an effect on one of the sisters but I won’t tell you which one just in case you don’t know the tale. Do read it if you get the chance.

That’s all from my Poetry in June sequence for today, I’ll leave you to the remainder of your weekend – but watch out for goblins selling unusually juicy produce if you are visiting any farmer’s markets today… 


A Sonnet: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Sonnet (number XLIII) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

book jacket of Poems by Heart

To love and remember

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and Ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion, put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with the love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, – I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

I did mention yesterday that I was thinking of choosing one of Shakespeare’s sonnet’s before opting for some verses from a play, so today I have indeed given you a sonnet. This one by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) was originally written in 1845 and published in 1850 as part of a collection called Sonnets from the Portuguese. I have taken the sonnet from the small but beautifully chosen anthology published by Penguin Classics (2009) and selected by Laura Barber that is pictured above. I think I bought this originally as an ideal travelling companion as it is neat enough to fit in pocket or bag.

Elizabeth Barrett had been writing and translating poetry and essays for several years before she was introduced to her future husband Robert Browning in 1845, who later persuaded her to publish her love sonnets. My first awareness of Barrett Browning had been though the story of the couple’s love affair and elopement which was set against a background of parental disapproval and Barrett Browning’s invalid status. The film The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934 version) made a great impression on me, as Charles Laughton was so terrifying as Mr Edward Barrett. All this for me, initially overshadowed her values and achievements. She wrote in support of the anti-slavery movement (her family money came from Jamaican plantations) and also of child labour reform legislation. By the time Robert Browning asked to be introduced to her, she was a very well-known and critically acclaimed writer.

If you want to know more about Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s life and work I can recommend a biography by Margaret Forster (1989) and also Lady’s Maid (1990) in which Forster went on to explore the life of Barrett Browning’s devoted maid Lily Wilson. For something more unusual, but well worth reading try Virginia Woolf’s Flush: a biography (1933) told from the point of view of  Barrett Browning’s pet dog which was given to Elizabeth by the writer Mary Russell Mitford. Finally, I have discovered that there is a Browning Society which promotes and discusses the work of both Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning.


MGM poster of Norma Shearer, Frederic March and Charles Laughton

Original film poster

More tomorrow!

(Film poster taken from Wikipedia)