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 yoke and stir 

Poor Laura could not hear; 

Long’d to buy fruit to comfort her, 

But fear’d 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 

Seem’d knocking at Death’s door: 

Then Lizzie weigh’d no more 

Better and worse; 

But put a silver penny in her purse, 

Kiss’d Laura, cross’d 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. 

Laugh’d 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,— 

Hugg’d her and kiss’d her: 

Squeez’d and caress’d her: 

Stretch’d 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, 

Toss’d them her penny. 

“Nay, take a seat with us, 

Honour and eat with us,” 

They answer’d 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 flavour 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 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. 

White and golden Lizzie stood, 

Like a lily in a flood,— 

Like a rock of blue-vein’d stone 

Lash’d by tides obstreperously,— 

Like a beacon left alone 

In a hoary roaring sea, 

Sending up a golden fire,— 

Like a fruit-crown’d orange-tree 

White with blossoms honey-sweet 

Sore beset by wasp and bee,— 

Like a royal virgin town 

Topp’d with gilded dome and spire 

Close beleaguer’d by a fleet 

Mad to tug her standard down. 

One may lead a horse to water, 

Twenty cannot make him drink. 

Though the goblins cuff’d and caught her, 

Coax’d and fought her, 

Bullied and besought her, 

Scratch’d her, pinch’d her black as ink, 

Kick’d and knock’d her, 

Maul’d and mock’d her, 

Lizzie utter’d not a word; 

Would not open lip from lip 

Lest they should cram a mouthful in: 

But laugh’d in heart to feel the drip 

Of juice that syrupp’d all her face, 

And lodg’d in dimples of her chin, 

And streak’d her neck which quaked like curd. 

At last the evil people, 

Worn out by her resistance, 

Flung back her penny, kick’d their fruit 

Along whichever road they took, 

Not leaving root or stone or shoot; 

Some writh’d into the ground, 

Some div’d into the brook 

With ring and ripple, 

Some scudded on the gale without a sound, 

Some vanish’d in the distance. 

In a smart, ache, tingle, 

Lizzie went her way; 

Knew not was it night or day; 

Sprang up the bank, tore thro’ 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 fear’d some goblin man 

Dogg’d her with gibe or curse 

Or something worse: 

But not one goblin scurried after, 

Nor was she prick’d 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 

Squeez’d 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, 

Clutch’d 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 ruin’d in my ruin, 

Thirsty, canker’d, goblin-ridden?”— 

She clung about her sister, 

Kiss’d and kiss’d and kiss’d her: 

Tears once again 

Refresh’d her shrunken eyes, 

Dropping like rain 

After long sultry drouth; 

Shaking with aguish fear, and pain, 

She kiss’d and kiss’d her with a hungry mouth. 

Her lips began to scorch, 

That juice was wormwood to her tongue, 

She loath’d the feast: 

Writhing as one possess’d she leap’d and sung, 

Rent all her robe, and wrung 

Her hands in lamentable haste, 

And beat her breast. 

Her locks stream’d 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, knock’d 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 fail’d 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-topp’d waterspout 

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 watch’d by her, 

Counted her pulse’s flagging stir, 

Felt for her breath, 

Held water to her lips, and cool’d her face 

With tears and fanning leaves: 

But when the first birds chirp’d about their eaves, 

And early reapers plodded to the place 

Of golden sheaves, 

And dew-wet grass 

Bow’d in the morning winds so brisk to pass, 

And new buds with new day 

Open’d of cup-like lilies on the stream, 

Laura awoke as from a dream, 

Laugh’d in the innocent old way, 

Hugg’d Lizzie but not twice or thrice; 

Her gleaming locks show’d not one thread of grey, 

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.”

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