Christina Rossetti
  1. Christina Rossetti in context--discourse, power and subject
  2. Poetry of Reticence-- the women in her poems; Poems on death
  3. Poetry of Social Criticism and Sensuality--"Goblin Market"

Christina Rossetti in context

Poetry of Reticence--Poems on death: self-renunciation or Self-preservation?  
May (excerpt)
"I cannot tell you what it was; 
But this I know: it did but pass. 
It passed away with sunny May, 
With all sweet things it passed away, 
And left me old, and cold, and grey" 
Memory (excerpt)
I nursed it in my bosom while it lived, 
  I hid it in my heart when it was dead; 
In joy I sat alone, even so I grieved 
     Alone and nothing said. ... 

I broke it at a blow, I laid it cold 
  Crushed in my deep heart where it used to live. 
My heart dies inch by inch; the time grows old, 
  Grows old in which I grieve. 

The Bourne
Underneath the growing grass, 
  Underneath the living flowers, 
  Deeper than the sound of showers 
  There we shall not counter the hours 
By the shadows as they pass. 

Youth and health will be but vain 
  Beauty reckoned of no worth: 
  There a very little girth 
  Can hold round what once the earth 
Seemed too narrow to contain (underline added).

"At Home" 
Illustrated by Florence Harrison
from Poems of Christina Rossetti 
NY: Gramercy 1994: 105

"Goblin Market"--the most popular one but receiving mixed reviews by contemporary criticis (Cf. Charles 32). 1. Goblins & fruits (with illustrations) 2. Women's roles
1. Goblins
"On a social/historical level, 'Goblin Market is about women's encounter with the male-dominated marketplace and their different accomodations to it.  Lizzie, Laura, and Jeanie represent scores of young country and village women whose lives were displaced by capitalism, signified in the poem by the goblin-merchant men(Leder 126 underlines added)

the luscious fruits
--16 kinds in the first 14 lines! a lot more various than the Apple of Eden,
--as commodities, as female sexuality,

  • The Illustrations for "Goblin Market"--from George Landow's Victorian Web
  • "One had a cat's face,/ One whisked a tail,/ One tramped at a rat's pace,/ One crawled like a snail,/
    One like a wombat prolweldge obtuse and furry,/ One like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry./
    She heard a voice like voice of doves/
    Cooing all together: /They sounded kind and full of loves/ In hte pleasant weather." (underline added)
     [Looking at goblin men] --
    [goblin men harvesting 1]
    [goblin men harvesting 2] 

    Rossetti [Cutting a lock of hair] 

    2. Women's roles 

    a. "[The poem] expresses one of the nineteenth century's most vivid nightmares of female violation in the marketplace and one of the most brazen fantasies of the redemptive powers and pleasures of sisterly love.  [It] reveals Rossetti's sharp and modern insight into women's dual role in the marketplace as both objects and perpetually unfulfilled consumers" (Leder 125 underlines added)

    b. the two sisters--angel or fallen woman, same or different?

    "There is no friend like a sister." 
    D. G. Rossetti's llastration for Goblin Market, 1862
    Illustrated by Florence Harrison
    from Poems of Christina Rossetti 
    NY: Gramercy 1994: 25.


    Work Cited
    Charles, Edna Kotin.  Christina Rossetti: Critical Perspectives, 1982-1982.  Toronto: Associated UP, 1985.
    Grass. Sean C.  "Nature's Perilous Variety in Rossetti's 'Goblin Market.'"  Nineteenth-Century Literature 51:3 (1996): 356-76.
    Harrison, Anthony H.  Christina Rossetti in Context.  Brighton, UK: Harvester, 1988.
    Leder, Sharon with Andrea Abbott.  The Language of Exclusion: The Poetry of Emily Dickenson and Christina Rossetti.  NY: Greenwood P, 1987.