DCIB Book Club: Poetry Week!!! Goblin Market, Dunkirk, and The Highwayman!!!!

Woo-hoo! Poems! Short, powerful, tell a story! No idea if any of you read my three recs, but that’s okay, I am happy just to be able to get them out there so that someday you may read them when you are feeling ballad-y!

Goblin Market

This one is fascinating! Loads of interpretations out there. One theory is that it is about “fallen women”, women who taste the forbidden fruit and then are redeemed by the love of other women. Rossetti herself was volunteering at a home for “fallen women” at the time and believed in, and had seen, the way they could be redeemed.

With that interpretation, what does it mean to have the other sister resist all temptation? Is it that only a purely pure woman can save a broken woman? And what is with the second taste of the juice almost killing but then saving her? That, I don’t get AT ALL. Unless it is some sort of weird vaccine for sexually transmitted diseases metaphor?

And then there is the Lesbian interpretation. Two ways to read that. One is, straight up Lesbians. They live together, they love each other, one of them is hurt, the other sacrifices herself, both are saved, HAPPY ENDING. The other would tie into the whole saving theory. Stick with me here! What if, having sex with a man almost kills you, but then having sex with a woman saves you?

There’s also just the straight up fairy tale literal version. I like that one. Two sisters doin’ it for themselves.


Total patriotic piffle, don’t care! I like the idea of the two teenage siblings knowing what they have to do without needing words. And I like the idea of feeling the spirit of those before you when you are doing something difficult. Plus, “Dunkirk” is just an amazing moment in history even if you don’t like the British.

The Highwayman

This was published in 1906 and voted the 15th most popular poem in Britain in 1995. Isn’t that interesting? Well, it’s interesting to me!!!! It has such a clear revolutionary message, the forces of order and government are nasty killers who destroy heartlessly and sadistically. We are rooting for the rebels, the forces of chaos.

Also interesting, the young lovers we are rooting for are SO STUPID!!!! So, our only choices in this world are to be evil and sadistic, or to be so dumb we literally die from it. I could think of so many better options for them!!! Like, what if she just did nothing and then hired him a good lawyer after he was arrested?

Of the 3 poems, this is also the one that I most want to turn into a movie! Evil Britishers, brave lover of the rebel, etc. etc. Right? Only in my version, this would just be the interval. He would think she died but actually she miraculously survived. And he also miraculously survived. She is slowly coming back to health and considering marriage to an inspiring rebel leader and visionary. He has started a new life in hiding. And then, like, Casablanca I think? She and her fiance show up at the hero’s nightclub that is an underground meeting place also, and then they learn they are each alive, and so on and so on.

Which poem did you like best?

Which one do you want to be a movie?

Are Lizzy and Laura Lesbians?

9 thoughts on “DCIB Book Club: Poetry Week!!! Goblin Market, Dunkirk, and The Highwayman!!!!

  1. I have a pretty low tolerance for poetry in general. Like, one of the fastest ways to make me run for the hills would be to write me a love poem. Ballads have a much higher chance to retain my attention, though. Maybe because I can see how the rigid structure would have helped memorize the story. So I gave these a chance.

    One of my other constraints for liking a poem is the rhythm. That’s even more important for me than the rhymes as such. So the one that most convinces me as a poem is The Highwayman. Yes, the lovers are stupid, but I guess that just makes the moral: Sacrifice is not worth it. Plus, maybe: Don’t tell on the one you love. (If we’re supposed to assume that the stable boy was the one who called in the authorities.)

    I’m not one to care about individual battles in any war, so I basically only scanned Dunkirk.

    And the Goblins: Goodness gracious, are there many fruits in this world! And that “Eat me, drink me, love me” business is just weird. The innuendo is so obvious, but why would she hate it, yet be healed by it? Yet the author would have to be almost unbelievably oblivious if there’s not supposed to be anything lesbian going on at that moment. So oblivious, in fact, that in that case I don’t think she could have conceived of the two being anything but actual sisters. From where I stand, the rest of the poem seems to tend more towards “oblivious”.
    Of course, the story doesn’t have to be a direct parable on “fallen women”, where everything has a direct equivalent in the real world. Falling for the goblins/fairies/… has always had an element of the naughty girl being seduced. And maybe it really is just about the other sister staying true yet suffering so much to save her.


    • The Highwayman has such a great rhythm!!!! It’s like the soundtrack for a movie, builds the excitement of the story as it goes along.

      So many fruits! I have to admit, I skipped that part. And you are landing on the “so obviously Queer that maybe they just didn’t know what was happening” explanation?

      On Sun, May 23, 2021 at 1:29 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • Only because that “obviously queer” reading doesn’t make any sense. So I land on “fairytale”, too. Even if it has some applicability to the author’s life.


  2. Of the three, I have read Dunkirk and Highwayman. Don’t care much for Dunkirk but love Highwayman. Like you said, it has such great rhythm. We read it as part of the high school curriculum in India way back in the mid-90s and I still remember parts of it. Whenever I see a long stretch of road straight ahead, especially in areas with rolling hills, I think of “The road was a ribbon of moonlight…And the highwayman came riding, riding, riding”.


    • But they are so dumb!!!! I just can’t read The Highwayman without wanting to smack the two leads upside the head and say “GROW UP! BE SMARTER!!!!”

      On Tue, May 25, 2021 at 3:26 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  3. The highwayman is one of my favourite poems ever! I heard it for the first time in primary school when my teacher read it and it left a HUGE impression on me though I didn’t remember the name until we studied it in secondary school.
    I like listening to Loreena Mckennit’s sung version of it but it always annoyed me how she left out important verses so I was super excited when I found out that the singer Karliene did an entire ALBUM based off the highwayman with some tracks being the verses of the poem and others being original things to add to the story.
    Last year, I even wrote a 30k word historical miraculous ladybug (don’t judge me lmao) fanfiction based on that poem, where the events of the poem took part in the penultimate chapter and until then I built up the relationship. It was great because that chapter then made people cry when they read it 😈 and it’s some of my best work, if i’m completely honest.
    I get what you mean about them being young and stupid in a way, but that’s the point I think? I think I read somewhere that the Noyes said the poem was so successful because he was in his early 20s when he wrote it and was genuinely excited by that kind of romance. Plus I’m pretty sure the soldiers were gonna shoot to kill so Bess couldn’t have done anything else to warn him? Idk, it seems like in one of those high stakes situations you wouldn’t be thinking of logical solutions anyway haha


    • This is insane! I had no idea it was such a cultural landmark!!!

      In your version, do you give them a happy ending? And if so, how???

      On Sat, May 29, 2021 at 1:35 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • I’m not sure about it being a cultural landmark per se, but the poet was definitely inspired by a real place he was staying at-I think the inn from the poem or something. I think it’s a shame there isn’t more media based on this story tbh because I really do like it-that’s how I found the Karliene album, because I was just randomly googling about the poem one day.

        …aaannd then I decided to write my own story based on it.

        To answer your question, no I did not give them a happy ending. What I DID do was an epilogue set 200 some years later at the beginning of the shows canon where the two characters meet, and made it a reincarnation story because clearly, I watch too many bollywood movies lolol. I’m working on the sequel right now which is set a few years after that epilogue and deals with her having these dreams about that past life etc etc, which, I realise now is kinda like Raabta hahah


        • Raabta is the BEST! Anything similar to it will be great too.

          On Mon, May 31, 2021 at 5:09 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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