Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
MORNING and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
- We learn in the first two lines that the "goblin market" is open for business all the time – both "morning and evening."
- It's also interesting that "maids," or unmarried women, are the ones who hear the "cries" of the goblin fruit sellers. Do men not hear the goblins? What about married women?
- The repeated "cry" of the goblin men sure would get annoying after a while.
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck'd cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Apricots, strawberries; -
All ripe together
In summer weather, -
- The goblin men list all kinds of fruit they have for sale.
- There are a few unusual kinds of fruit listed, so we'll point those out.
- "Quinces" are a fruit from the eastern Mediterranean that look kind of like pears, but are too sour to eat unless they're cooked.
- "Unpecked cherries" are just cherries that birds haven't "pecked" at. They're fresh and perfect.
- "Bloom-down-cheeked peaches" are peaches that are fresh and covered in peach fuzz.
- "Mulberries" are a kind of fruit native to warm and sub-tropical places.
- "Crab-apples" are just a kind of small, tart apple.
- "Dewberries" are like small blackberries.
- It might not strike you as odd that the goblins have "pine-apples," "strawberries," "apples," and citrus fruit all at the same market, at the same time, but for 19th -century readers, this would seem like crazy-talk. After all, pineapples and citrus fruit require warm climates and would need to be imported to England. We might be able to walk into a grocery store and find all of these fruits in the same produce section at any time of the year, but it just wasn't possible in the 19th century.
- Not only do the goblins have fruit from all different climates at their market, they have fruit that usually ripen in different seasons. "Apples," for example are usually ripe in the fall, while strawberries are ready in the early summer.
- But all of these fruits are ready at the same time, "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,
- The "morning and evening" mentioned in the first line of the poem are brought up again here –the goblin men mention the passing of "morns," or mornings," and beautiful "eves." They're saying, "time flies, so come buy our fruit."
- Then the goblin men launch into another list of fruits at their market. Again, some of the varieties are unusual, so we'll pause to point out the odd ones…
- "Pomegranates" are a kind of Mediterranean fruit with lots of edible, juicy red seeds inside a tough rind.
- "Dates" are the fruit from the date palm tree.
- "Bullaces," "greengages," and "Damsons" are different varieties of plum.
- "Bilberries" are similar to blueberries, and are sometimes called European blueberries.
- Then the goblins stop their list again to invite anyone who's listening (the "maids" mentioned in line 2, probably), to "taste them and try."
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye;
Come buy, come buy."
- Now it's back to listing fruit. Is anyone else exhausted by the choices here? It's like going to a gourmet supermarket – the choice is overwhelming. But back to pointing out the unusual fruit –bear with us as we complete the tour of the goblin produce section—we're almost through.
- "Gooseberries" are usually green, and look kind of like hairy grapes. They're good for jam.
- "Barberries" are a dark red berry (which is why they're described as "bright-fire-like" here).
- "Citrons" are – you guessed it – a kind of citrus fruit. And they come from the South with a capital "S," which basically just means anywhere south of England where citrus could grow.
- (Citron also means "lemon" in French.)
- The goblin men assure the "maids" (or anyone who is still listening) that their fruit is sweet and "sound," or healthy – at least, "to the eye." Does that mean that the fruit could be rotten in the middle?
- But the goblin fruit sellers aren't taking questions about their overwhelming assortment of fruit –they're just repeating the command to "come buy."