Adlestrop and a review of ‘Adelstrophes’ by R.K.R Thornton

Adlestrophes,  by RKR Thornton                            published by  RECTORY PRESS

My copy is 6th ed, (augmented) dated 2017.     58pp price £5         isbn 978 0 9572415 0 3

A Graph Review:     70plus, up to 80 points

I assume this is available through bookshops, my copy was given by the author.      It seems you can buy copies directly from Rectory Press, as noted in the title pages, from:

and if you happen to do so, then please mention ‘poetryparc’  (no commission, just nice to know)

I decided I should include the original by Edward Thomas as a reminder  and as a visual comparison to the various styles so ably assembled in ‘Adlestrophes’.  It is included in this collection.


Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
from  ‘Poems’ (1917)   Edward Thomas
Okay, so you have re-visited Adlestrop.           Now, via this lovely little collection by RKR Thornton plus single poems by five others, you can sit in the train at that very same spot and sample the style of many a famous poet.
Kelsey gives an introduction where he explains the reasons for this collection and points out that some of the variations contain details not found in the original.  The front and back covers have the assorted poets sitting in a carriage, with brief comment from Kelsey. There are also three b&w illustrations in the text. I assume all drawn by Kelsey Thornton.
Yes, hints of other streams of thought (ie well-known poems) filter through these  variants and add to the fun of reading each poem.  Whatever your preference……well, almost….. you will be able to pick out the subtle and not so subtle elements of period poetry.      Actually, you cant miss them most of the time!
For an example from the book:
Matsuo Basho  (1644-1694)
from the Japanese
Engine’s unplanned halt;
In hush of midsummer noon
Ripples of birdsong
Should I list the poets?  I will give a selection of those included.  If your favourite isn’t there  it wont matter a jot!
a prose writer, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Pope, Wordsworth, Southey, Keats, Tennyson, McGonagall, Dickinson, Swinburne, Hardy, cummings, Dowson, Frost, Masefield, Milne, Brooke, Issa, Cope, Lorca: and, as they say, even more.
This book is entertaining and also informative in its way of showing the differences in style and periods and indeed the quality of RKR’s work (and others).   It also highlights the quality of the original and affirms its place in the nation’s memory and affection.  A lovely little collection, great for a journey!

John Clare born 13 July 1793: 225 years ago today, 2018


clare painting  It is quite amazing that a poet who was recognised by many of his peers of the day, only briefly by his public at large, sank almost out of sight for a hundred years before climbing in stature to a pre-eminent position amongst poets some of whom surpassed him in his lifetime; and is now studied at A level plus degree level and researched widely.

The likes of Burns (with whom Clare felt a close affinity), Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and many others of his day may have retained their fame but none have grown in stature over the centuries as has Clare.

Born to an agricultural labourer family in Helpston.  Educated at the local village school, he was a promising child who might have gone further as an apprentice but Clare found the rigour of such indoor work confining and seems to have needed the freedom of an outdoor life.   He became a ploughboy.  He found the poetry of Thompson and the work of Robert Bloomfield and his eye and brain turned to poetry.  Not only that but also taking on his father’s interest in playing the fiddle and folk songs.

As well as roaming the countryside for  between or during working hours, he became a collector of folk songs, learnt to play the fiddle, gained knowledge of gypsy music from visiting their camps.  Taught himself to read and write music by reading music scores of tunes he knew so he could  record the tunes he gathered.   And wrote many poems as ‘songs’ for those tunes.    I haven’t read that he wrote any new music, just collected what he heard.   Travellers he met, drovers too, would have brought music from such as Scotland and other regions, in the way that music travels even today.  Many happy hours seem to have been spent working as a pot-man at the Blue Bell Inn or just whiling away the hours with drinking, fiddling and song.  These seem to have been sunny times for him, maybe helping lift his spirits.

john clare statue

statue of Clare in too-large overcoat for his 4foot6 height. Given to him originally to hide his even poorer clothing.

One reason why he has become so well known may be that there is still so much to be discussed and discovered about the man.       He was not highly educated, at a village school, though recommended as a very able student by the master.  He was and continued to be, an avid reader and self-educating along the way in the wide range of books he could borrow or buy.  At one point he had a whole library to select from where he worked as a gardener for a while.   You may say he was unfortunate in his life for all the hardships he had to endure.  The stress of poverty and physical hardship caused an eventual breakdown in his health and mind.

But we must remember that with a mind as sharp as his, we can see decisions that he made for himself.  They may have been wrong at times, pride, unwillingness to change, and an element of diffidence or inferiority that held him back.  I suspect a serious aspect for him was his (in)ability to support his family within the constraints of the work available to his small stature whilst maintaining his growing believe in himself as a poet.  He had some small success on being published but not in volume or as income.  A degree of fame without income was draining mentally, physically and also financially.

His family was supported to move to Northborough a very few miles from his village of Helpston but this was a difficult move for him personally and may have added to his slipping mental health.  However this move did produce a whole raft of writing recently published as the ‘ Northborough Sonnets’

His years in asylums where his mental health was in difficulty actually produced some of his best poetry.  Poetic form was in his blood and it is thankful that he was allowed pen and paper and that these were collected and kept safe.  This was both in High Beech and again in Northampton Asylum after a brief spell of refusing writing materials.  In these years his physical health was much improved, his stress levels most likely lessened by being away from his family.  Though still to some degree because of his separation from family and especially his beloved Helpston environs; and need to be confined within a different, smaller area of grounds.  (Epping Forest would have been an area he could have wandered but had not the fields and fens he loved.). At Northampton, when more settled, he would be allowed to visit the town and often sat in the precinct of All Saint’s Church.

Becoming frail they used a wheelchair for him, enabling him to sit in the asylum grounds. He had a stroke and died shortly after on 20th May 1864.  He was buried at Helpston on 25th May.

clare midsummer cushion

midsummer cushions for Clare on his anniversary from local schoolchildren

His output is put at thousands of poems, large amounts of natural history prose, a brief autobiography, partly written humorous novel and rewriting of verses of the bible.  His writings have been problematical in their ‘deciphering’ and dating put progress has been made in the last few years.  More study will produce more insights and understanding.  No doubt some deeper meanings will be sought from some verse.  In many cases I believe he wrote what he saw, in minute detail, for us all to see. He was not ‘philosophical’ in his writings on nature, perhaps a little, later, in ‘personal’ verse.   He wrote satire too, in scything detail, read The Parish and Don Juan at least for a sharper side to his tongue.  Some say his stature in literature ranks with Shakespeare.  His was a totally different vein to Shakespeare but it is not an idea I have much argument with.

Perhaps I wrote more than I intended but there is so much more to write!  Clare’s poetry should be his memorial.  I usually include lesser known lines where possible and these  later poems, likely from 1860,   are fitting:

The Peasant Poet

He loved the brook’s soft sound,
The swallow swimming by.
He loved the daisy-covered ground,
The cloud-bedappled sky.
To him the dismal storm appeared
The very voice of God;
And when the evening rack was reared
Stood Moses with his rod.
And everything his eyes surveyed,
The insects in the brake,
Were creatures God Almighty made,
He loved them for His sake–
A silent man in life’s affairs,
A thinker from a boy,
A peasant in his daily cares,
A poet in his joy.


To John Clare

Well, honest John, how fare you now at home?
The spring is come, and birds are building nests;
The old cock-robin to the sty is come,
With olive feathers and its ruddy breast;
And the old cock, with wattles and red comb,
Struts with the hens, and seems to like some best,
Then crows, and looks about for little crumbs,
Swept out by little folks an hour ago;
The pigs sleep in the sty; the bookman comes–
The little boy lets home-close nesting go,
And pockets tops and taws, where daisies blow,
To look at the new number just laid down,
With lots of pictures, and good stories too,
And Jack the Giant-killer’s high renown.


I Am

I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death’s oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
And e’en the dearest- that I loved the best-
Are strange- nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil’d or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below- above the vaulted sky.

poems of love

Poems of love

This is my title, not the editor of the book these are taken from: a 1942 reprint of ‘The English Galaxy of Shorter Poems’ published by J.M.Dent & Sons  in 1939 (in Everyman Library).   Edited by Gerald Bullett with a preface dated 1933 and a second preface dated 1939.

He explains why he did not include titles for poems, unless they carried information which clarified the poem itself.   He did include the poet on each page and included names and their dates; also first lines, in indexes at end of the book.

I suppose it is a sign of those ‘old days!’ that I counted approx 115 authors listed and only five of them women: Christina Rossetti, Alice Meynell, Emily Dickinson and Emily Bronte.   Of the numerous ‘anon’ poems included, one is attributed to Ann Boleyn and written the night before her execution!  So why exclude other obvious ones?

There are various subjects included but it seems a remarkable quantity can be on life but more described as ‘love’, or’ praise in hope of love’ or maybe just ‘favours’. From the earliest of days it is a great theme which uses Nature, flora, and Classical mythological gods and episodes.  Thankfully there are a few that are more florid than floral but on the whole the poems show the wide chasm of poetic style up to the mid-Nineteenth century at least, as well as many after that seemed to happily cling to the previous centuries.

Industrialisation, enclosure and the increasing mechanisation of warfare (WW! especially) seems to have  pressed the button for change.   It then gets interestingly complicated as influences increase from literally all directions as the world becomes more connected to populations rather than just the earlier, monied or more adventurous individuals or monogrammed.


a few old poems in which I found interesting aspects enough to put forward:


Fair is my love that feeds among the lilies,

The lilies growing in the pleasant garden

Where Cupid’s Mount that well-beloved hill is,

And where that little god himself is warden.

See where my love sits in the bed of spices,

Beset all round with camphor, myrrh, and roses,

And interlaced with curious devices

Which her from all the world apart encloses.

There doth she tune her lute for her delight

And with sweet music makes the ground to move,

Whilst I, poor I, do sit in heavy plight,

Wailing alone my unrespected love,

Not daring rush into so rare a place

That gives to her, and she to it, a grace.


Bartholomew Griffin.       Ob.1602



My Love in her attire doth show her wit,

It doth so we’ll become her:

For every season she hath dressing fit,

For winter, spring and summer.

No beauty she doth miss

When all her robes are on:

But Beauty’s self she is

When all her robes are gone.





Love not me for comely grace,

For my pleasing eye or face,

Nor for any outward part,

No, nor for a constant heart:

For these may fail or turn to ill,

So thou and I shall sever:

Keep, therefore, a true woman’s eye,

And love me still but know not why –

So hast thou the same reason still

To dote upon me ever!





O waly waly up the bank,

And waly waly down the brave,

And waly waly you burn-side

Where I and my love wont to gae!

I leant my back against an aik,

I thought it was a trusty tree;

But first it bow’d, and syne it brak –

Sae my true love did lightly me.


O waly waly, but love is bonny

A little time while it is new;

But when ‘tis auld, it waxeth could

And fades awa’ like morning dew.

O wherefore should I busk my head?

Or wherefore should I kame my hair?

For my true love has me forsook,

And says he’ll never lose me mair.


But had I wish, before I kist,

That love had been sae I’ll to win,

I had locket my heart in a case of gold

And pinn’d it with a siller pin.

And O, if my young babe were born,

And set upon the nurse’s knee,

And I mysell were dead and bane,

And the green grass growing over me!





One wept whose only child was dead,

New-born, ten years ago.

‘Weep not; he is in bliss,” they said.

She answered, “Even so,


Ten years ago was born in pain

A child, not now forlorn.

But oh, ten years ago, in vain,

A mother, a mother was born.”


Alice Meynell. 1850-1922


Note, below is not in the above book but moved on in style.

BULLION                                 Amy Lowell


My thoughts

Chink against my ribs

And roll about like silver hail-stones.
I should like to spill them out,

And pour them, all shining,

Over you.

But my heart is shut upon them

And holds them straitly.


Come, You! and open my heart;

That my thoughts torment me no longer,
But glitter in your hair.


Loosened Threads: A Graph Review

Loosened Threads.                              A Graph Review :       good 68 plus to 70 points

by Poetry I D


Published 28 June 2018.    By. Poetry ID

978 0 9542867 7 4           £5

It’s not often you can find 62 poems from a total of fifteen contemporary poets in an anthology; maybe even more remarkable that it is the sixth such annual anthology from this poetry group based in North Hertfordshire.  Furthermore Loosened Threads is a fine professional publication.  Intriguing cover, quality production and a competitive price of £5, all worthy of a larger publishing organisation and a higher price.  The book’s title is taken from an included poem by Adrian  Body.

Cover design by Yuko Minamikawa Adams

Okay, now it’s time to admit my inclusion in this anthology, however I will not comment on my own work.  Having spent many years in the publishing/bookselling world I am (maybe sadly) commenting via experience as well as enthusiasm on the subject.   However, I like what I like and will let you know accordingly.

I could pick many a name and individual poems that bring images, scenes and thoughts into close focus but will concentrate on my personal favourites.

Rose Saliba get a surprise vote for all four of her poems.  Intriguing, humorous, memorable, recitable, nail-on-head and a few more plaudits.  As a set they just work for me:   Play it Again,    Lovernest,   Hats,    Missing.    (My brrief comments on them below.)

Dick Jones:  Snow is a language                            (interesting take on snow)

Adrian Boddy:  Loosened  Threads                       (events and repurcussions)

Simon Cockle:  A Moon on my Pillow                   (a storybook poem)

Nicky Phillips: Unpickling                                       (recasting a life)

Rose Saliba:     Play it again:        (Slightly longer than the other poems, drifting nicely through allusion after illusion (!), including and crafting snippets of (well-known film plus…) images into a dream of life.  But of course, there is more to discover than a dream.)

Lovernest:     (Short, fun, jaunty and ends in death:  what more could you want from a poem?)

Hats:    (Yes, all about different hats, did you know there were so many?  And that’s It!    Another one for the anthologists.)

Missing:        (A change of tone here.  A  heartbeat for all parents…..)

Yes, maybe you want deeper thoughts or analysis from me but that is not what I offer.  What I do say is that this is a collection that merits your attention from poets that you can read and re-read.  I am sorry I cannot highlight them all.

All the poets and poems included in this volume represent contemporary poetry at its widest and best.  Loosened Threads maintains its history of quality from Poetry ID throughout.

List of poets in order of contents:

Dick Jones,  Ann Copeland,  John Gohorry,  Barbara Wheeler,  Adrian Boddy,  Gareth Writer-Davies,  J.Johnson Smith,  Simon Cockle,  Nicky Phillips,  Richard J.N.Copeland,  Yuko Minamikawa Adams,  David Van-Carter,  Rose Saliba,  Mark Randles,  Jay Ward

available when published through Poetry ID website:         poetry ID   

also  through Amazon, Davids Bookshop, Letchworth

or contact this site as ‘poetryparc’ or  e:


The Highwayman Alfred Noyes

This poem is looked at in depth as part of the requirement in schools today for understanding the basics of poetry; coming to grips with early terminology, rhyme and storytelling in verse.  And it has all the elements required to introduce young people to reading, writing and developing an understanding of what poetry is about.  However:

I hope that it is mixed in with more current subjects and styles rather than as an example in solitary confinement.  True, time is needed to cover early bases  and this single poem has many.  However, the genre is somewhat outdated ( okay, it has its merits) , the subject is too and ought to be mixed with more modern poems  and contemporary poetry of whatever written or performed styles..Poems compared may be seen to have similar constructions or contemporary modifications and I suspect variety helps maintain interest!

This is still a valid  poem to be read aloud and also for teaching but please don’t grind the children and the poem down as I have seen recently.

By the way, my children remember this poem from their schooldays, I remember it from reading poetry when I was at school but wasn’t stuck with dissecting it.  Maybe that’s why I can still read it…….occasionally!    Or maybe just because I was and am, hooked on words!

The Highwayman                                  by Alfred Noyes  (1880-1959)


The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.

The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,

And the highwayman came riding—


The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.


He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,

A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin.

They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.

And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,

His pistol butts a-twinkle,

His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.


Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.

He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.

He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there

But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,

Bess, the landlord’s daughter,

Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.


And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked

Where Tim the ostler listened. His face was white and peaked.

His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,

But he loved the landlord’s daughter,

The landlord’s red-lipped daughter.

Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—


“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night,

But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;

Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,

Then look for me by moonlight,

Watch for me by moonlight,

I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”


He rose upright in the stirrups. He scarce could reach her hand,

But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand

As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;

And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,

(O, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)

Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.




He did not come in the dawning. He did not come at noon;

And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,

When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,

A red-coat troop came marching—


King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.


They said no word to the landlord. They drank his ale instead.

But they gagged his daughter, and bound her, to the foot of her narrow bed.

Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!

There was death at every window;

And hell at one dark window;

For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.


They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest.

They had bound a musket beside her, with the muzzle beneath her breast!

“Now, keep good watch!” and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man say—

Look for me by moonlight;

Watch for me by moonlight;

I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!


She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!

She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!

They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years

Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,

Cold, on the stroke of midnight,

The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!


The tip of one finger touched it. She strove no more for the rest.

Up, she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast.

She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;

For the road lay bare in the moonlight;

Blank and bare in the moonlight;

And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love’s refrain.


Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horsehoofs ringing clear;

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?

Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,

The highwayman came riding—


The red coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still.


Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!

Nearer he came and nearer. Her face was like a light.

Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,

Then her finger moved in the moonlight,

Her musket shattered the moonlight,

Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.


He turned. He spurred to the west; he did not know who stood

Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own blood!

Not till the dawn he heard it, and his face grew grey to hear

How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,

The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,

Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.


Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,

With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high.

Blood red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat;

When they shot him down on the highway,

Down like a dog on the highway,

And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.


.       .       .


And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,

When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,   

When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,   

A highwayman comes riding—


A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.


Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.

He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred.   

He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there   

But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,

         Bess, the landlord’s daughter,

Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.


From ‘Collected Poems’  1947


Daddy Fell into the Pond

Everyone grumbled. The sky was grey.
We had nothing to do and nothing to say.
We were nearing the end of a dismal day,
And there seemed to be nothing beyond,
Daddy fell into the pond!

And everyone’s face grew merry and bright,
And Timothy danced for sheer delight.
‘Give me the camera, quick, oh quick!
He’s crawling out of the duckweed.’

Then the gardener suddenly slapped his knee,
And doubled up, shaking silently,
And the ducks all quacked as if they were daft
And it sounded as if the old drake laughed.

O, there wasn’t a thing that didn’t respond
Daddy fell into the pond!


Loosened Threads, poetry anthology book-launch

Just in case anyone is local or have the need to travel:





 7.30 PM THURSDAY 28 JUNE 2018           

Loosened Threads,      pb.  £5.   978 1848850866 

available via    Davids B/s,    ID website   or contact     poetryparc. for alternatives.        

postage might be extra, especially if address not UK.

LOOSENED THREADS is the sixth annual anthology of poems written by members of local poetry group Poetry ID.   It contains over sixty new poems by Dick Jones, Gareth Writer-Davies, Ann Copeland, J.Johnson Smith, John Gohorry, Barbara Wheeler, Adrian Boddy, Simon Cockle, Nicky Phillips, Richard J. N. Copeland, Yuko Minamikawa Adams,  David Van-Cauter, Rose Saliba, Mark Randles and Jay Ward.

Come and hear some of the poems read by the poets who wrote them.

There are some open mic slots for guests to read a poem or two of theirs as well.

Admission £3.00 on the door at David’s Bookshop, 14 Eastcheap, Letchworth Garden City SG6 3DE.

 Interval refreshments will be available.

J.S.Watts, reviewing our 2015 anthology ‘Coming Into Leaf’, said ‘It is a collection of considerable quality and depth…a rich and fruitful collection of diverse poetry and poets looking at the world differently but always with freshness.’ (

Poetry ID is the North Herts Stanza of the Poetry Society and meets every Thursday evening during term time at The Settlement, Letchworth

Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti


illus. from the first publication of Goblin Market

Goblin Market                                       

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:

“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpecked cherries-
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;
Our grapes fresh from the vine,
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullaces,
Rare pears and greengages,
Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try:
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberries,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye,
Come buy, come buy.”

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?”
“Come buy,” call the goblins
Hobbling down the glen.
“O! cried Lizzie, Laura, Laura,
You should not peep at goblin men.”
Lizzie covered up her eyes
Covered close lest they should look;
Laura reared her glossy head,
And whispered 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 whisked a tail,
One tramped at a rat’s pace,
One crawled like a snail,
One like a wombat prowled obtuse and furry,
One like a ratel tumbled hurry-scurry.
Lizzie heard a voice like voice of doves
Cooing all together:
They sounded kind and full of loves
In the pleasant weather.

Laura stretched her gleaming neck
Like a rush-imbedded swan,
Like a lily from the beck,
Like a moonlit poplar branch,
Like a vessel at the launch
When its last restraint is gone.

Backwards up the mossy glen
Turned and trooped the goblin men,
With their shrill repeated cry,
“Come buy, come buy.”
When they reached 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.
One set his basket down,
One reared his plate;
One began to weave a crown
Of tendrils, leaves, and rough nuts brown
(Men sell not such in any town);
One heaved the golden weight
Of dish and fruit to offer her:
“Come buy, come buy,” was still their cry.
Laura stared but did not stir,
Longed but had no money:
The whisk-tailed merchant bade her taste
In tones as smooth as honey,
The cat-faced purr’d,
The rat-paced spoke a word
Of welcome, and the snail-paced even was heard;
One parrot-voiced and jolly
Cried “Pretty Goblin” still for “Pretty Polly”;
One whistled like a bird.

But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste:
“Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather.”
“You have much gold upon your head,”
They answered altogether:
“Buy from us with a golden curl.”
She clipped a precious golden lock,
She dropped a tear more rare than pearl,
Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red:
Sweeter than honey from the rock,
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,
Clearer than water flowed that juice;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She sucked and sucked and sucked the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore,
She sucked until her lips were sore;
Then flung the emptied rinds away,
But gathered up one kernel stone,
And knew not was it night or day
As she turned home alone.

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.
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
Plucked from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the moonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more, but dwindled and grew gray;
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.”
“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 kissed her.
“Have done with sorrow;
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.”

Golden head by golden head,
Like two pigeons in one nest
Folded in each other’s wings,
They lay down, in their curtained bed:
Like two blossoms on one stem,
Like two flakes of new-fallen snow,
Like two wands of ivory
Tipped with gold for awful kings.
Moon and stars beamed in at them,
Wind sang to them lullaby,
Lumbering owls forbore to fly,
Not a bat flapped to and fro
Round their rest:
Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Locked together in one nest.

Early in the morning
When the first cock crowed his warning,
Neat like bees, as sweet and busy,
Laura rose with Lizzie:
Fetched in honey, milked the cows,
Aired and set to rights the house,
Kneaded cakes of whitest wheat,
Cakes for dainty mouths to eat,
Next churned butter, whipped up cream,
Fed their poultry, sat and sewed;
Talked as modest maidens should
Lizzie with an open heart,
Laura in an absent dream,
One content, one sick in part;
One warbling for the mere bright day’s delight,
One longing for the night.

At length slow evening came–
They went with pitchers to the reedy brook;
Lizzie most placid in her look,
Laura most like a leaping flame.
They drew the gurgling water from its deep
Lizzie plucked purple and rich golden flags,
Then turning homeward said: “The sunset flushes
Those furthest loftiest crags;
Come, Laura, not another maiden lags,
No wilful squirrel wags,
The beasts and birds are fast asleep.”
But Laura loitered still among the rushes
And said the bank was steep.

And said the hour was early still,
The dew not fallen, the wind not chill:
Listening ever, but not catching
The customary cry,
“Come buy, come buy,”
With its iterated jingle
Of sugar-baited words:
Not for all her watching
Once discerning even one goblin
Racing, whisking, tumbling, hobbling;
Let alone the herds
That used to tramp along the glen,
In groups or single,
Of brisk fruit-merchant men.

Till Lizzie urged, “O Laura, come,
I hear the fruit-call, but I dare not look:
You should not loiter longer at this brook:
Come with me home.
The stars rise, the moon bends her arc,
Each glow-worm winks her spark,
Let us get home before the night grows dark;
For clouds may gather even
Though this is summer weather,
Put out the lights and drench us through;
Then if we lost our way what should we do?”

Laura turned cold as stone
To find her sister heard that cry alone,
That goblin cry,
“Come buy our fruits, come buy.”
Must she then buy no more such dainty fruit?
Must she no more such succous pasture find,
Gone deaf and blind?
Her tree of life drooped from the root:
She said not one word in her heart’s sore ache;
But peering thro’ the dimness, naught discerning,
Trudged home, her pitcher dripping all the way;
So crept to bed, and lay
Silent ’til Lizzie slept;
Then sat up in a passionate yearning,
And gnashed her teeth for balked desire, and wept
As if her heart would break.

Day after day, night after night,
Laura kept watch in vain,
In sullen silence of exceeding pain.
She never caught again the goblin cry:
“Come buy, come buy,”
She never spied the goblin men
Hawking their fruits along the glen:
But when the noon waxed bright
Her hair grew thin and gray;
She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn
To swift decay, and burn
Her fire away.

One day remembering her kernel-stone
She set it by a wall that faced the south;
Dewed it with tears, hoped for a root,
Watched for a waxing shoot,
But there came none;
It never saw the sun,
It never felt the trickling moisture run:
While with sunk eyes and faded mouth
She dreamed of melons, as a traveller sees
False waves in desert drouth
With shade of leaf-crowned trees,
And burns the thirstier in the sandful breeze.

She no more swept the house,
Tended the fowls or cows,
Fetched honey, kneaded cakes of wheat,
Brought water from the brook:
But sat down listless in the chimney-nook
And would not eat.

Tender Lizzie could not bear
To watch her sister’s cankerous care,
Yet not to share.
She night and morning
Caught the goblins’ cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy.”
Beside the brook, along the glen
She heard the tramp of goblin men,
The voice and stir
Poor Laura could not hear;
Longed to buy fruit to comfort her,
But feared to pay too dear.

She 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.

Till Laura, dwindling,
Seemed knocking at Death’s door:
Then Lizzie weighed no more
Better and worse,
But put a silver penny in her purse,
Kissed Laura, crossed the heath with clumps of furze
At twilight, halted by the brook,
And for the first time in her life
Began to listen and look.

Laughed every goblin
When they spied her peeping:
Came towards her hobbling,
Flying, running, leaping,
Puffing and blowing,
Chuckling, clapping, crowing,
Clucking and gobbling,
Mopping and mowing,
Full of airs and graces,
Pulling wry faces,
Demure grimaces,
Cat-like and rat-like,
Ratel and wombat-like,
Snail-paced in a hurry,
Parrot-voiced and whistler,
Helter-skelter, hurry-skurry,
Chattering like magpies,
Fluttering like pigeons,
Gliding like fishes, —
Hugged her and kissed her;
Squeezed and caressed her;
Stretched up their dishes,
Panniers and plates:
“Look at our apples
Russet and dun,
Bob at our cherries
Bite at our peaches,
Citrons and dates,
Grapes for the asking,
Pears red with basking
Out in the sun,
Plums on their twigs;
Pluck them and suck them,
Pomegranates, figs.”

“Good folk,” said Lizzie,
Mindful of Jeanie,
“Give me much and many”; —
Held out her apron,
Tossed them her penny.
“Nay, take a seat with us,
Honor and eat with us,”
They answered grinning;
“Our feast is but beginning.
Night yet is early,
Warm and dew-pearly,
Wakeful and starry:
Such fruits as these
No man can carry;
Half their bloom would fly,
Half their dew would dry,
Half their flavor would pass by.
Sit down and feast with us,
Be welcome guest with us,
Cheer you and rest with us.”
“Thank you,” said Lizzie; “but one waits
At home alone for me:
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 tossed you for a fee.”
They began to scratch their pates,
No longer wagging, purring,
But visibly demurring,
Grunting and snarling.
One called her proud,
Cross-grained, uncivil;
Their tones waxed loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
They trod and hustled her,
Elbowed and jostled her,
Clawed with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soiled her stocking,
Twitched her hair out by the roots,
Stamped upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeezed their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.

White and golden Lizzie stood,
Like a lily in a flood,
Like a rock of blue-veined stone
Lashed by tides obstreperously, —
Like a beacon left alone
In a hoary roaring sea,
Sending up a golden fire, —
Like a fruit-crowned orange-tree
White with blossoms honey-sweet
Sore beset by wasp and bee, —
Like a royal virgin town
Topped with gilded dome and spire
Close beleaguered by a fleet
Mad to tear her standard down.

One may lead a horse to water,
Twenty cannot make him drink.
Though the goblins cuffed and caught her,
Coaxed and fought her,
Bullied and besought her,
Scratched her, pinched her black as ink,
Kicked and knocked her,
Mauled and mocked her,
Lizzie uttered not a word;
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in;
But laughed in heart to feel the drip
Of juice that syruped all her face,
And lodged in dimples of her chin,
And streaked her neck which quaked like curd.
At last the evil people,
Worn out by her resistance,
Flung back her penny, kicked their fruit
Along whichever road they took,
Not leaving root or stone or shoot.
Some writhed into the ground,
Some dived into the brook
With ring and ripple.
Some scudded on the gale without a sound,
Some vanished in the distance.

In a smart, ache, tingle,
Lizzie went her way;
Knew not was it night or day;
Sprang up the bank, tore through the furze,
Threaded copse and dingle,
And heard her penny jingle
Bouncing in her purse, —
Its bounce was music to her ear.
She ran and ran
As if she feared some goblin man
Dogged her with gibe or curse
Or something worse:
But not one goblin skurried after,
Nor was she pricked by fear;
The kind heart made her windy-paced
That urged her home quite out of breath with haste
And inward laughter.

She cried “Laura,” up the garden,
“Did you miss me ?
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew.
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me:
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.”

Laura started from her chair,
Flung her arms up in the air,
Clutched her hair:
“Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tasted
For my sake the fruit forbidden?
Must your light like mine be hidden,
Your young life like mine be wasted,
Undone in mine undoing,
And ruined in my ruin;
Thirsty, cankered, goblin-ridden?”
She clung about her sister,
Kissed and kissed and kissed her:
Tears once again
Refreshed her shrunken eyes,
Dropping like rain
After long sultry drouth;
Shaking with aguish fear, and pain,
She kissed and kissed her with a hungry mouth.

Her lips began to scorch,
That juice was wormwood to her tongue,
She loathed the feast:
Writhing as one possessed she leaped and sung,
Rent all her robe, and wrung
Her hands in lamentable haste,
And beat her breast.
Her locks streamed like the torch
Borne by a racer at full speed,
Or like the mane of horses in their flight,
Or like an eagle when she stems the light
Straight toward the sun,
Or like a caged thing freed,
Or like a flying flag when armies run.

Swift fire spread through her veins, knocked at her heart,
Met the fire smouldering there
And overbore its lesser flame,
She gorged on bitterness without a name:
Ah! fool, to choose such part
Of soul-consuming care!
Sense failed in the mortal strife:
Like the watch-tower of a town
Which an earthquake shatters down,
Like a lightning-stricken mast,
Like a wind-uprooted tree
Spun about,
Like a foam-topped water-spout
Cast down headlong in the sea,
She fell at last;
Pleasure past and anguish past,
Is it death or is it life ?

Life out of death.
That night long Lizzie watched by her,
Counted her pulse’s flagging stir,
Felt for her breath,
Held water to her lips, and cooled her face
With tears and fanning leaves:
But when the first birds chirped about their eaves,
And early reapers plodded to the place
Of golden sheaves,
And dew-wet grass
Bowed in the morning winds so brisk to pass,
And new buds with new day
Opened of cup-like lilies on the stream,
Laura awoke as from a dream,
Laughed in the innocent old way,
Hugged Lizzie but not twice or thrice;
Her gleaming locks showed not one thread of gray,
Her breath was sweet as May,
And light danced in her eyes.

Days, weeks, months, years
Afterwards, when both were wives
With children of their own;
Their mother-hearts beset with fears,
Their lives bound up in tender lives;
Laura would call the little ones
And tell them of her early prime,
Those pleasant days long gone
Of not-returning time:
Would talk about the haunted glen,
The wicked, quaint fruit-merchant men,
Their fruits like honey to the throat,
But poison in the blood;
(Men sell not such in any town;)
Would tell them how her sister stood
In deadly peril to do her good,
And win the fiery antidote:
Then joining hands to little hands
Would bid them cling together,
“For there is no friend like a sister,
In calm or stormy weather,
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.”


Christina Georgina Rossetti   1830-94      From: Goblin Market and Other Poems,1862