A friend called me about two weeks ago, giddy with the excitement of a crazy new romance. She was excitedly flushed with urgent juices. She is a creative, literate woman; and in her bright-eyed joy was reading poetry again, and loving Christina Rossetti’s 1859 poem Goblin Market.
One restless night, Laura is tempted by persuasive goblins to eat their juicy fruit. She knows better – do not to heed the twilight invitations of goblins. But she is curious, driven, challenged. She nibbles, eats, sucks, gorges. She is stricken with insatiable desire for more sweet juices but the goblins abandon her. Laura barely gets home at dawn, listless, ill, in peril of losing her life. But her devoted sister Lizzie saves her by seeking the taunting, leering/luring goblins. She accepts their fruits but refuses to eat. She survives the goblins’ horrible efforts to force her to partake and eventually takes the fruit to her stricken, dying sister. Sucking juices, Lizzie survives, curiously cured of her urgent needs forever after.
The poem is complex and allegorical – there are a number of theories about what Rossetti was writing of. But plainly it has to do with insistent desires. One line is telling: when Laura eats the fruit, her appetite becomes insatiable: “I ate my fill,/Yet my mouth waters still” .
Goblin juices are addictive; the cravings are addiction.
Tobacco, drink, gambling, the Internet, even sex – all are sweet, addictive juices, often offered to us by friendly goblins for our enjoyment (and often for their profit). We know better than to heed the cries; because we have heeded them before: tempted, indulged, soared, crashed, suffered. The Morning After, we are listless, in pain and discomfort, sometimes in peril of losing our jobs, or loves, if not our lives.
I understand the imperatives to slurp goblin juice – I am an alcoholic. It has been 7 years since I last drank. Before that I went through one period of 16 years without drinking, and another of about 8 years. I used to smoke too: I gave up a 50 cigarette-a-day habit in 1983. Much of my adult life I have been driven to drink and smoke and enjoy all the juices that I could slurp. Some addicts take a long time, maybe never, to acknowledge their cravings. Not me: I was unlucky that way – I always knew but still I gorged. That takes the arrogance of “I can handle this problem” “I know I can stop any time I want”. In my case I was able to stop, but it was not an easy matter. I just told everybody I loved that I had quit and my pride then disallowed me to re-start. Usually a curse, sometimes hubris is a blessing.
Nowadays I try only to satisfy the daily urge for adventure, walking, Living Life…
I dedicate this piece to friends. One today celebrates many years of being drug and alcohol-free by enjoying the company of the people who supported her through her withdrawal and recovery. Another friend proudly celebrated a year dry. And a much loved chap this week admitted himself into an alcohol and drug rehab clinic. And; my friend who called to tell me of her own fruitfest – her heady relationship swiftly ended a few days later in much pain; the addictive goblin juices soured; she in heart hangover.