The Vampire, 1897

The Vampire

Originally uploaded by Thomas Roche

I love this painting ‘The Vampire,’ 1987, by Philip Burne-Jones. It inspired Kipling’s poem, below.

Rudyard Kipling : The Vampire (1897)

A fool there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you or I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair,
(We called her the woman who did not care),
But the fool he called her his lady fair–
(Even as you or I!)

Oh, the years we waste and the tears we waste,
And the work of our head and hand
Belong to the woman who did not know
(And now we know that she never could know)
And did not understand!

A fool there was and his goods he spent,
(Even as you or I!)
Honour and faith and a sure intent
(And it wasn’t the least what the lady meant),
But a fool must follow his natural bent
(Even as you or I!)

Oh, the toil we lost and the spoil we lost
And the excellent things we planned
Belong to the woman who didn’t know why
(And now we know that she never knew why)
And did not understand!

The fool was stripped to his foolish hide,
(Even as you or I!)
Which she might have seen when she threw him aside–
(But it isn’t on record the lady tried)
So some of him lived but the most of him died–
(Even as you or I!)

‘And it isn’t the shame and it isn’t the blame
That stings like a white-hot brand–
It’s coming to know that she never knew why
(Seeing, at last, she could never know why)
And never could understand!’

The woman in the painting is thought to be based on the stage actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell, with whom Philip was romantically linked.

On the death of his father in 1898, Burne-Jones acceded to the baronetcy that had been bestowed on his father — who reportedly only accepted the honor because Philip was into the idea of inheriting the title.

I nabbed the image from Wikipedia, and the text of the poem from Vamp Girl, since it doesn’t appear to be on Project Gutenberg.

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