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Goblin Market

Goblin Market


by Christina Rossetti

Stanza 4 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 87-90

Backwards up the mossy glen
Turn'd and troop'd the goblin men,
With their shrill repeated cry,
"Come buy, come buy."

  • The "goblin men" turn around and come back up the valley. They must realize that Laura's checking them out. Maybe they can sense that there's a potential sale to be made here.
  • They keep crying out their tired old sales pitch: "Come buy! Come buy!"

Lines 91-96

When they reach'd where Laura was
They stood stock still upon the moss,
Leering at each other,
Brother with queer brother;
Signalling each other,
Brother with sly brother

  • When they get back to where Laura is, the goblins stop and "leer," or glance sideways, at each other.
  • They're described as "brothers," but don't assume that they're related by blood. As in HBO's Band of Brothers, they're just all part of the same band.
  • In line 94, "queer" means "suspiciously odd."
  • The goblins sneakily "signal" to each other.
  • They're described as "brothers," again. This time as "sly brother[s]." The repetition underlines the fact that they're all members of one group, while Laura is isolated and alone. Even her own sister, Lizzie, isn't around.

Lines 97-104

One set his basket down,
One rear'd his plate;
One began to weave a crown
Of tendrils, leaves, and rough nuts brown
(Men sell not such in any town);
One heav'd the golden weight
Of dish and fruit to offer her:
"Come buy, come buy," was still their cry

  • After "signaling each other," the goblins all leap to action, and they all seem to have different, pre-arranged tasks. It seems like they've done this before.
  • The uniqueness of the individual goblins is emphasized again: like in lines 71-76, lines 97-102 begin with "One" – "one" goblin did this, and "one" did that. They all have different jobs.
  • One of them "rears," or holds up his "plate," probably to show off the fruit on it for Laura.
  • Another goblin starts to "weave a crown" for her out of branches of nuts.
  • Line 101 is in parentheses – it's as though the poet is telling us, just by the way, that the kind of nuts the goblins are using are really uncommon. This seems important, but like a lot of the details in the poem, the meaning isn't clear.
  • Another goblin hefts up a heavy golden dish full of fruit to offer her.
  • They're all still "cry[ing]" in unison, "come buy! Come buy!"
  • This might seem creepy, but Laura clearly has not seen as many horror movies as we have, so she doesn't know that this would be a great moment to turn and run.

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