As a gardener as well as an artist – and gardening for this artist means growing plants for food, for natural dyeing/eco printing and for the spirit – the 2021 gardening year has been notable for its length. The images in the slideshow are all in bloom as I write, on 16 November, with the exception of the Japanese Anemones, which, however, have only just finished blooming. The tomato plants, which are growing outdoors, not in the greenhouse, are still bearing fruit.
I know of gardeners who are rejoicing. I started writing this as one of them, but as I was writing, I found myself thinking of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market and wondered why and so I dug it out to read again. And as the saying goes, was reminded of the errors of my ways.
This extract from the poem reminded me of the dangers of intensive farming which relies for it success on the use of insecticides and genetically-modified crops, resulting, for instance, in the decimation of bee populations. The protagonist in the poem is Laura, who is warned by her sister Lizzie:
“We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?”
But Laura bought their fruits and marvelled at their perfection. Fruits which bloomed at all the wrong times. She kept one kernel stone:
One day remembering her kernel-stone
She set it by a wall that faced the south;
Dew’d it with tears, hoped for a root,
Watch’d for a waxing shoot,
But there came none;
It never saw the sun,
It never felt the trickling moisture run:…
Laura was saved by her sister Lizzie.
I hope we know who those goblin men work for, and that they aren’t only those who stayed away from Cop 26 (for what harm can goblins do if they do not go among the folk and tempt them with their fruit). I hope we know who Laura’s sister works for and that COP26 will be the sister who will save us.
Rossetti wrote Goblin Market in 1859. Like all great art, its message is as powerful and as valid today as it was when it was written 162 years ago.
It’s funny when you sit down to write one thing and end up writing the opposite.