I have only discovered today that my favourite Christmas Carol was written by a favourite poet of mine.
In the Bleak Midwinter was published originally under the title “A Christmas Carol “and was first collected in book form in Goblin Market, The Prince’s Progress and Other Poems(Macmillan, 1875).
Then in 1906, the composer Gustav Holst composed a setting of Rossetti’s words (titled “Cranham”) in The English Hymnal, which is sung throughout the world. Gustav Holst drew inspiration from walks in his native Gloucestershire: the tune for Rossetti’s poem. The tune was named after the small Cotswold village where his grandparents lived.
Goblin Market, as readers of myblog will know, is a favourite of mine too.
Stumbled across this guy on a walk at the weekend. So had to do another Goblin Market post…!
So without further parleying, If you will not sell me any Of your fruits though much and many, Give me back my silver penny I toss’d you for a fee.”— They began to scratch their pates, No longer wagging, purring, But visibly demurring, Grunting and snarling. One call’d her proud, Cross-grain’d, uncivil; Their tones wax’d loud, Their looks were evil. Lashing their tails They trod and hustled her, Elbow’d and jostled her, Claw’d with their nails, Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking, Tore her gown and soil’d her stocking, Twitch’d her hair out by the roots, Stamp’d upon her tender feet, Held her hands and squeez’d their fruits Against her mouth to make her eat…’
Goblin Market (published in 1862) is a narrative poem which tells the story of Laura and Lizzie who are tempted with fruit by goblin merchants. It is one of my favourite poems generally and my favourite Rossetti poem in particular.
Evening by evening Among the brookside rushes, Laura bow’d her head to hear, Lizzie veil’d 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?” “Come buy,” call the goblins Hobbling down the glen.
“Oh,” cried Lizzie, “Laura, Laura, You should not peep at goblin men.” Lizzie cover’d up her eyes, Cover’d close lest they should look; Laura rear’d her glossy head, And whisper’d like the restless brook: “Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie, Down the glen tramp little men. One hauls a basket, One bears a plate, One lugs a golden dish Of many pounds weight. How fair the vine must grow Whose grapes are so luscious; How warm the wind must blow Through those fruit bushes.” “No,” said Lizzie, “No, no, no; Their offers should not charm us, Their evil gifts would harm us.” She thrust a dimpled finger In each ear, shut eyes and ran: Curious Laura chose to linger Wondering at each merchant man. One had a cat’s face, One whisk’d a tail, One tramp’d at a rat’s pace, One crawl’d like a snail, One like a wombat prowl’d obtuse and furry, One like a ratel tumbled hurry skurry. She heard a voice like voice of doves Cooing all together: They sounded kind and full of loves In the pleasant weather.
It’s a fairytale world of temptation and mystery, exploring themes of temptation, sacrifice and salvation.
Ancient themes magically visited in beautiful lyrical language.