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About this Poem 

This poem was published in Goblin Market, The Price’s Progress and Other Poems (Oxford University Press, 1913).

The Ghost's Petition

‘There’s a footstep coming: look out and see,’
     ‘The leaves are falling, the wind is calling;
No one cometh across the lea.’—

‘There’s a footstep coming: O sister, look.’—
     ‘The ripple flashes, the white foam dashes;
No one cometh across the brook.’—

‘But he promised that he would come:
     To-night, to-morrow, in joy or sorrow,
He must keep his word, and must come home.

‘For he promised that he would come:
     His word was given; from earth or heaven,
He must keep his word, and must come home.

‘Go to sleep, my sweet sister Jane;
     You can slumber, who need not number
Hour after hour, in doubt and pain.

‘I shall sit here awhile, and watch;
     Listening, hoping, for one hand groping
In deep shadow to find the latch.’

After the dark, and before the light,
     One lay sleeping; and one sat weeping,
Who had watched and wept the weary night.

After the night, and before the day,
     One lay sleeping; and one sat weeping—
Watching, weeping for one away.

There came a footstep climbing the stair;
     Some one standing out on the landing
Shook the door like a puff of air—

Shook the door, and in he passed.
     Did he enter? In the room centre
Stood her husband: the door shut fast.

‘O Robin, but you are cold—
     Chilled with the night-dew: so lily-white you
Look like a stray lamb from our fold.

‘O Robin, but you are late:
     Come and sit near me—sit here and cheer me.’—
(Blue the flame burnt in the grate.)

‘Lay not down your head on my breast:
     I cannot hold you, kind wife, nor fold you
In the shelter that you love best.

‘Feel not after my clasping hand:
     I am but a shadow, come from the meadow
Where many lie, but no tree can stand.

‘We are trees which have shed their leaves:
     Our heads lie low there, but no tears flow there;
Only I grieve for my wife who grieves.

‘I could rest if you would not moan
     Hour after hour; I have no power
To shut my ears where I lie alone.

‘I could rest if you would not cry;
     But there’s no sleeping while you sit weeping—
Watching, weeping so bitterly.’—

‘Woe’s me! woe’s me! for this I have heard.
     Oh, night of sorrow!—oh, black to-morrow!
Is it thus that you keep your word?

‘O you who used so to shelter me
     Warm from the least wind—why, now the east wind
Is warmer than you, whom I quake to see.

‘O my husband of flesh and blood,
     For whom my mother I left, and brother,
And all I had, accounting it good,

‘What do you do there, underground,
     In the dark hollow? I’m fain to follow.
What do you do there?—what have you found?’—

‘What I do there I must not tell:
     But I have plenty: kind wife, content ye:
It is well with us—it is well.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti

Born in 1839 in London, Christina Rossetti, the author of Goblin Market and Other Poems, is a major Victorian Poet.

by this poet

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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-

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I dwell alone—I dwell alone, alone,
Whilst full my river flows down to the sea,
     Gilded with flashing boats
          That bring no friend to me:
O love-songs, gurgling from a hundred throats,
          O love-pangs, let me be.

Fair fall the freighted boats which gold and

poem
Come to me in the silence of the night;
    Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
    As sunlight on a stream;
       Come back in tears,
O memory, hope, love of finished years.

O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,
    Whose wakening should have been