Monday, April 03, 2006

The nightmares of a Victorian female

Poor Lizzie and Laura. They are haunted by the goblin men. When I read this poem, I can't help but think of the typical Dickensian heroine in all her purity, ignorance, repression, and self-sacrifice (I do like Dickens by the way.) What would Lucie Manette think of all these goblins? She was haunted too, but she heard footsteps.

Evening by evening
Among the brookside rushes,
Laura bowed her head to hear,
Lizzie veiled her blushes:
Crouching close together
In the cooling weather,
With clasping arms and cautioning lips,
With tingling cheeks and finger-tips.
"Lie close," Laura said,
Pricking up her golden head:
We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?"

I particularly like this passage. I imagine the girls blushing and hiding, feeling so asahmed that the goblins call out to them.

They must not buy the fruit. They must not listen. They must not look. The fruit may be tainted and evil. Mmmm? But the "goblin men" can tempt the girls and push their fruit on them. It seems to be a double standard. I guess I need to keep reading.


Blogger ttbookjunkie said...

Jenni I agree Dickenson and Rossetti's characters are very much "victorian." That passage you brought up was actually used in an ungradclass I took many moons ago by a professor who argued that the poem had lesbian themes. I can see it but personally I do not buy it.

How do you all feel about it?

7:25 PM  
Blogger teabird17 said...

I've read the commentary, and I don't buy it either.

As a Pre-Raphaelite, Christina would have been influenced by the images of the fair damozels and such that the men painted, and the ideas of a male, non-sexual brotherhood. Their paintings were as vibrant and colorful as her descriptions of the fruits and the sisters. It's a stretch to read "Sapphic" themes into a poem that was written when women had intense friendships (Boston marriages came a little later in the US, I think,)and even the men wrote passionate, flowery letters to each other.

I read the poem as a brilliantly-colored dream, part fairy-tale (goblins), part biblical (Eve eating the apple), part myth (Persephone taking one seed of the pomegranate).

7:47 AM  
Blogger Jenni said...

Yeah, I don't buy it either. Modern critics tend to think everything is about sex.

3:08 PM  

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