Sweet to tongue and sound to eye


There was a lot of talk on Twitter yesterday about people enjoying the first fruits of the season. It immediately brought to mind we must not look at goblin men, we must not taste their fruits, who knows upon what soil they fed their thirsty hungry roots?

And then I went to the grocery store and bought some peaches. Then I thought about Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti for the rest of the night.

“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… “

I’m having great difficulties with my garden this year. I wish I had those luscious crops. The poem is lush, heavy like humid midday air, bewildering, as sweet to the eye as a glass of chilled wine is to the tongue on a summer evening. This is a poem that can be discussed endlessly. The erotic relationship between the two sisters is like a heat mirage. Laura is affected by tasting the goblins’ fruit as if she had been the sweet to a vampire’s tongue:

[Lizzie} …thought of Jeanie in her grave,
Who should have been a bride;
But who for joys brides hope to have
Fell sick and died
In her gay prime,
In earliest winter-time,
With the first glazing rime,
With the first snow-fall of crisp winter-time.

But what I thought about yesterday, after rereading the poem, was the story of Demeter and Persephone. Persephone was kidnapped by Hades, resisted eating any fruits of the Underworld because she knew that would trap her forever, but gave in to hunger and ate pomegranate seeds. Her mother searched the world for her and endured ordeal after ordeal, like Lizzie, until she learned what had happened to Persephone. I’ve always been fascinated by that myth. I thought about how there is always something waiting to catch us, physically or mentally, and drain us, unless someone cares enough to save us, or unless we can force ourselves to be our own saviors, moving first just a finger, like someone suffering from sleep paralysis.

Laura laughed “in the innocent old way” when she recovered from the goblin spell. But we’re not innocent after such an ordeal. We live hearts beset with fears that panic us by day and paralyze us by night, and we warn others the only way we know how. We write.


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