Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Lizzie met her at the gate
Full of wise upbraidings:
"Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens;
Should not loiter in the glen
In the haunts of goblin men.
- When Laura gets home, Lizzie meets her at the front gate to scold her for hanging out with the goblins.
- Lizzie reminds her that "twilight" is a bad time for "maidens," or unmarried young women.
- Is "twilight" less dangerous for married women and for men? That's what Lizzie seems to be implying.
- Just as the goblin's cries were only heard by the "maids" in line 2, this line seems to suggest that "twilight" is especially dangerous for "maidens."
Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,
Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers
Pluck'd from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
- Lizzie then reminds Laura about what happened to a girl named "Jeanie." Apparently Jeanie listened to the goblins' calls in the "moonlight" and took their fruit as "gifts."
- Jeanie ate all the "choice" or perfect fruit that they gave her and wore the "flowers" they had picked from the "bowers," or shady corners of a garden.
- It's interesting that she uses the word "bowers" to describe the place where those "flowers" had been "plucked," because "bowers" can also mean a woman's private bedroom.
- Having "flowers" "plucked" out of a woman's private bedroom sounds an awful lot like Jeanie lost her virginity during this exchange with the goblins.
But ever in the noonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more, but dwindled and grew grey;
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low:
I planted daisies there a year ago
That never blow.
You should not loiter so."
- Lizzie continues with Jeanie's story. Although she ate the goblins' fruits in the "moonlight" (line 148), she started to "pine away" during the "noonlight."
- (Yes, "noonlight" is a made-up word; the poet probably uses it because it rhymes with "moonlight.")
- After her fruit binge, Jeanie starts to get sick and "pine away." She looks everywhere for the goblins and their crazy-good fruit, but can't find them, so she wastes away and ages prematurely.
- Then she "fell," or died, at the time of the first snow.
- The word "fell" has other connotations, too. A "fallen woman" during the Victorian period is one who has lost her sexual purity.
- Lizzie reminds Laura that even the grass won't grow on Jeanie's grave.
- Lizzie tried planting flowers on the grave, but they won't bloom.
- Lizzie wraps up her lecture by repeating that Laura shouldn't "loiter" after dark near the goblin market unless she wants to end up like Jeanie.
"Nay, hush," said Laura:
"Nay, hush, my sister:
I ate and ate my fill,
Yet my mouth waters still;
To-morrow night I will
Buy more;" and kiss'd her:
"Have done with sorrow;
- Laura tells Lizzie not to worry. Laura tells her sister that she (Laura) ate lots of fruit and is still hungry for more, but not to worry.
- She says that "tomorrow night" she'll go and buy more.
- It's like she's telling her sister not to worry, because she can stop anytime she wants to.
I'll bring you plums to-morrow
Fresh on their mother twigs,
Cherries worth getting;
You cannot think what figs
My teeth have met in,
What melons icy-cold
Piled on a dish of gold
Too huge for me to hold,
What peaches with a velvet nap,
Pellucid grapes without one seed:
Odorous indeed must be the mead
Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink
With lilies at the brink,
And sugar-sweet their sap."
- Laura starts going on and on about the fruit she tasted. She promises to bring some back for Lizzie.
- She lists all the awesome "plums," "cherries," "figs" et cetera that she's eaten. She can't seem to stop raving about them. Especially about the "velvet nap," or peach fuzz, on the peaches, and the "pellucid," or translucent grapes.
- Laura wonders what kind of totally awesome place could grow such delicious fruit.