Friday, March 13, 2009

Reader's Diary #469- Christina Rossetti: Poems

A couple weeks back, Barbara, a faithful reader of mine, commented regarding my complaint that Ocavio Paz's poetry was too inaccessible. She said that for her "poetry is never very accessible, so I find I do best to just let it flow over me like a stream."

Fortunately, with Rossetti's poems I felt I had both: accessibility + that flowing stream business. It's been a long time since I've read a poetry collection with such beautiful rhythm. Even when I picked up the book later at night, when I was too tired to attend to the meaning behind the words, the mood of the poems still sank in. They were very technically and emotionally appealing.

Containing her lyric poems, dramatic and narrative poems, rhymes and riddles, sonnet sequences and prayers and meditations, it's hard for me to select a favourite. But, I've chosen to highlight "Goblin Market." Though I've just discovered that's it's one of Rossetti's most well-known poems, I wasn't familiar with it. Not that the poems up to that point were childish or naive; for instance, many of them dealt with death, however "Goblin Market" shocked me to attention. It's certainly not graphic by today's standards, but there's a lot of suggestive imagery in there that I'm sure even the most novice of poetry readers would pick up on. Apparently she claimed it was a children's poem, which reminds me of that Beatles bit about "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" supposedly having been inspired by Lennon's son's painting, not LSD. Right. Anyway, "Goblin Market" may not be about hallucinogenics, but written in the Victorian era, I guess she still needed a good cover story. Decide for yourself:

Goblin Market
by Christina Rossetti

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
'Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpecked cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheeked peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;--
All ripe together
In summer weather,--
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy.'

Okay, you're probably thinking, maybe... it wouldn't be the first or last time that fruit have implied something carnal, but still it's a bit too subtle to really know, right? Well read on. (There's also audio of the poem at the link). What do you think?


raych said...

I wrote an essay for this poem on one of my final exams, pretty much because it freaked my shit out and I couldn't concentrate on any of the other poems.

Kailana said...

Christina Rossetti is one of my favourite poets. Goblin Market is the one that always come to mind when I think of her, though...

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I like the cadence of this poem. It trips along nicely, when it's not trying to seduce me with fruit, that is.

Susan said...

I was just writing about poetry yesterday, and not sure who was reading any, and here you did a post on poetry! How lovely! Plus, i have some of Christina Rossetti's poetry too - I must be really innocent, because I took this poem at face value when I first read it a few years ago, and even tonight, rereading it on your blog, I still think it's about selling fruit! lol It could be about sexual favours, of course, but then I have to ask myself how it fits in with the title. I keep thinking about the rule of Faerie that you can't eat anything from there, so this poem is about fairies tempting - not likely, but neither is all the fruit they have to sell at once! Lovely post, John, and I am so happy to see other poets and poetry being discussed also.

John Mutford said...

Raych: There's no shortage of fodder for an essay, that's for sure.

Kailana: It certainly stands out.

Barbara: She was a master of cadence.

Susan: There's a bunch of us that blog about poetry ever Friday-- if you're interested, you should click on the "Poetry Friday" button at the top of this post.