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.
>What can I give him, poor as I am?
This is the question at the heart of giving. And as we are crunched by the recession this becomes an ever more pressing question, particularly for a middle class which has come to treasure money so highly. It really dismays me when we hear in our churches about giving – and it is always centred on money (or so it seems). What can I give him, poor as I am?
Christina Rossetti discusses this in her poem “In the bleak midwinter“. For her money doesn’t enter into it – and in this recession all of us are questioning the worth of what money will buy (particulalry those of us on their third skip in the process of moving house). Take money out of the equation and what can we give? Those unable to buy off their giving with money perhaps know the answer best. They operate in an economy of gifts aware they can give “their heart”, that they can pay attention, that they can give themselves, that they can for-give, that they can give thanks.
And my own thanksgiving – a woman working on the platform at Crewe Station who was amazingly kind, patient, hospitable and gentle with my mother in helping her find the right train – someone bearing the fruits of the Spirit. British Rail won’t have been paying her for that but some gifts money cannot buy.
Miroslav Volf (in Free of Charge p116)describes the work of the Holy Spirit in terms of gifts. “The Spirit is the gift that gives spiritual gifts”. He writes; “the Spirit opens the doors of our hearts for Christ’s indwelling …. by the power of the Spirit we make ourselves available for Christ to be born in us … The Spirit is the gift that gives Christ”.
“Think of the Spirit as the arms of our hearts that embrace Christ and as the open doors of our energies and skills that welcome Christ in.”
Photo by Logan Antill.