Wednesday, April 12, 2006

On Vamps and Vampires

Monsieur Co-lihn sends some more Kipling, along with a woman's response to it:

"Kipling's "The Vampire" has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, and I
found this retort to that poem in an old collection of poems published circa

A Woman's Answer To "The Vampire"

A fool there was, and she lowered her pride,
(Even as you and I!)
To a bunch of conceit in a masculine hide-
We saw the faults that could not be denied,
But the fool saw only his manly side,
(Even as you and I!)

Oh, the love she laid on her own heart's grave,
With care of her head and hand,
Belongs to the man who did not know,
(And now she knows that he could never know),
And did not understand.

A fool there was and her best she gave,
(Even as you and I!)
Of noble thoughts, of gay and grave,
(And all were accepted as due to the knave).
But the fool would never her folly save-
(Even as you and I!)

Oh, the stabs she hid, which the Lord forbid,
Had ever been really planned,
She took from the man who didn't know why,
(And now she knows he never knew why),
And did not understnand.

The fool was loved while the game was new
(Even as you and I!)
And when it was played, she took her cue,
(Plodding along as most of us do),
Trying to keep his faults from view
(Even as you and I!)

And it isn't the ache of the heart, or its break
That stings like a white-hot brand-
It's learning to know that she raised the rod,
And bent her head to kiss the rod
For one who could not understand.

-Felicia Blake

Here's the original, in its mysoginistic glory:

The Vampire

A FOOL there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you and 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 and 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 and I!)
Honor and faith and a sure intent
But a fool must follow his natural bent
(And it wasn’t the least what the lady meant),
(Even as you and 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 she never knew why)
And did not understand.

The fool we stripped to his foolish hide
(Even as you and 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 and 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.

-Rudyard Kipling

A little bit of old movie trivia: this poem was sort of turned into a silent
flick called "A Fool There Was", starring Theda Bara as the screen's
first "Vamp". I saw this movie years ago, it wasn't bad."

I actually have a copy of it: it's pretty darn melodramatic and one can see very well how Theda Bara got her nickname from it.


Mestephil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mestephil said...

The interesting question is: who is Felicia Blake? So far the earliest publication I can find of the poem was in 1904 in a newspaper. But Felicia Blake is a one hit wonder in poetry it seems. I have clues to whom she may be - one Felicia Blake Rees Clem (1866-1963), but am not sure. Her poem was once said to be an "angry" response to Kipling's poem, but Felicia Blake Rees and Harry Rees divorced in 1901 over the issue of infidelity, and that may be the true motivation. After that she had other unique involvements, if this is the Felicia Blake of the poem. It remains that over the years her poem is compiled as one of America's "favorite" poems.