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The Meaning Behind ‘The Vampire’ by Rudyard Kipling

Everyone that reads poetry occasionally comes across a poem that doesn’t make complete sense to them. While reading some classic vampire poetry I came across such a poem – The Vampire by Rudyard Kipling. Had this poem not had “vampire” in the title I would have never thought it was about vampires at all. But the title does in fact change the meaning behind the poem. Seeing how we have so many brilliant literary minds here on, I’ll ask you, what do you think the meaning is behind this poem? What is the story the poet is trying to tell?

The Vampire by Rudyard Kipling

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.

Now that you have read the poem, what do you think of it? Does it bring vampires to mind? What point was the poet attempting to get across? Let us know what you think in a comment below.

– Moonlight

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Moonlight • March 10, 2011

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  1. sarah crowley March 10, 2011 - 7:29 am Reply

    a mere nonsense

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  4. Christine March 11, 2011 - 2:56 am Reply

    Poem was inspired by that painting. Painter was in love with an actress, she didn´t feel the same, he made her as a vampire in the painting and it caused lot of talking.

    • Moonlight March 11, 2011 - 9:52 am Reply

      Oooh! You rock Christine! I remember reading something about that painting, but they never explained it. Thanks! :)

  5. Bellatore March 11, 2011 - 9:35 am Reply

    Apparently, tells the story of a man under the control of a female vampire.

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  7. TL82669 April 23, 2011 - 6:31 am Reply

    He made her a vampire in that but it was an allegory for her nature. She sucked him dry, of money and love. Left him lifeless, dead inside but still walking.

  8. Richard Fortunato January 14, 2015 - 7:39 pm Reply

    It was written about the famous actor Johnston Forbes-Robertson & actress Mrs Patrick (Stella) Campbell. Kipling was a good friend of the actor and – as this poem makes clear – did not have a high opinion of the woman.

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