Marché du Midi

Goblin Market

Something in my dream last night reminded me of Christina Rossetti’s poem Goblin Market again, so I want to write down this story.

I was in Brussels with a friend who I had talked to for two years but never met in person. As we were walking past a Carrefour, we discovered that we both enjoy grocery shopping. She said, “it’s in the nature of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.” That was a good justification. We didn’t have anything planned for the next morning yet, so naturally we decided to visit Marché du Midi, one of the biggest outdoor markets in Europe.

While browsing through pictures of fruit stands at Marché du Midi, the poem Goblin Market got stuck in my head. The poem is metaphorically about two sisters’ sexual adventure, and it starts like this:

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces,
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpeck’d cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheek’d peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries,
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together
In summer weather,—

My friend really liked the beginning, so we read through the poem and wanted to learn about every type of fruit mentioned in Goblin Market. There are some quite obscure berries, like dewberries, barberries, and gooseberries. There are so many berries in the poem perhaps because X-berries always rhymes with Y-berries. It took us a while to Google through the entire list. Now that we had spent an hour or two looking at pictures of exotic fruits, we challenged ourselves to find as many of them as possible at Marché du Midi.

The next morning, we got up at 7am and went into the 20°F weather for Marché du Midi. The market was huge. I don’t remember finding any exotic berries in the poem, but it was my first time eating a khaki fruit.

Since then, we have continued our quest for markets and fruits, but we haven’t been very successful. A month later we went to Compi de Flori together in Rome, but only found artichokes, fungi, and creative pasta shapes. I’ve since discovered Monmouth Coffee at Borough Market, baguettes and cheeses at Marché Bastille, and fried sardines at Ballarò Street Market, but until this day I still haven’t seen any gooseberries.


Compi de Flori, Rome


Marché Bastille, Paris