Goblin Market

Goblin Market, Goblin Market.

Goblin Market is a remarkable poem by Christina Rossetti. I love this video version because of its pace, images and soundtrack. The words are here. Christina Rossetti was a volunteer worker for over ten years at a refuge for former prostitutes (St Mary Magdalene “house of charity” in Highgate, London), and this experience pulses through the poem.

Rossetti is also well known for writing the words of the Christmas carol, In the bleak Midwinter, (here sung by Alison Crowe). The carol ends with the question “what can I give him, poor as I am?” This is a profound and everyday question. What can we give when we think we have nothing to give? Gift shops have ideas with price tags for those not so poor. Their buyers may wonder what they can get away with. The receivers of such gifts may pass them on to others as something unwanted. What they wanted was something of themselves.  Something that comes from the heart: something that is wholehearted.

What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a wise man, I would play my part; Yet what I can, I give him: give my heart.

For posing the question and for her wholehearted responses  – we give thanks today, a feast day for Christina Rossetti.

The image is Come Buy, a wood engraving by Laurence Housman (1892) scanned by George Landow.

Hallelujah

Everyone seems very excited about the prospect of Hallelujah being the Christmas number 1 – with X Factor winner Alexandra – or is Hallelujah going to be number 1 and 2. It is if the campaign of the facebook Jeff Buckley for Xmas No 1 (backed by Edith Bowman and Colin Murray) works.

It is indeed a beautiful song. Opinion seems to be going with John Cale’s version and Jeff Buckley’s being the best, but I like Allison Crowe’s as well. Leonard’s own version too is brilliant but has taken on a life of its own.

What is not clear is what the song means. For me, it’s definitely not a straight “praise” song inspite of all the “Hallelujahs”. That it seemed such an appropriate end to the X Factor series – and an appropriate “victory song” for Alexandra to sing back up what I see Leonard Cohen alluding to. Using Old Testament references to David, Bathsehba and Delilah, Cohen puts the praise response of Hallelujah on the lips and loin of pleasure – as well the hearts and minds of worship, and that when we come face to face with God we will have to trust that he will accept our “broken hallelujahs”.

Here are the lyrics anyway – see what you think.