Sunday, 6 March 2011

Echoes of Vampirism

For all of you fang fans awaiting the final chapter of my TWIDHARD marathon, here's a little slice of vampire history to be going on with...

The above picture is entitled The Vampire, the most famous work produced by British Pre-Raphaelite Sir Philip Burne-Jones. Now this gorgeous piece went on to inspire Rudyard Kipling to pen a verse of the same name -

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!'

And this poem in turn formed the inspiration for a famous silent movie A Fool There Was (which you can view online here), which launched the career of Theda Bara and in turn lead to the coining of the term 'vamp' for sexy, seductive and possibly dangerous ladies...

Ms. Bara was one of cinema's earliest sex symbols, and the first in a long long line of sexy vampires on our screens. However whenever I look upon Burne-Jones' picture, another later screen siren springs to mind...

Yes, the legendary Ingrid Pitt, pictured here as Mircalla/Marcilla in Hammer's classic The Vampire Lovers (1970) itself an adaptation of another landmark in vampire fiction, Carmilla (1872) by Sheridan le Fanu.

Now, the great success of The Vampire Lovers saw Hammer making two further films loosely derived from Le Fanu's classic - Lust For A Vampire (1971) and Twins of Evil (1972) -but it also spawned a whole line of erotic and horror fictions dealing with sapphic vampirism ("the love that cannot spell its name" according to Dr Terrible's House of Horrible).

Obviously Burne-Jones could have had no idea his piece would inspire a whole genealogy of sexually alluring vampires, but one does wonder whether his muse had been sneaking a peek at the future time lines and spotted Ms. Pitt...

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