Comparative Poetry Analysis: Five Poems by different poets with the theme of ‘vampire’.

In 1897, poet Rudyard Kipling diversified the genre of romantic poetry by addressing the subject of vampirism. Kipling’s poem ‘The Vampire’,was inspired by a painting of a woman depicted as a vampire with teeth bared, and while it was mildly erotic, she was predatory.

Kipling talked about the relationship between the fool and the woman, constantly referring to “she will never understand,” that her unscrupulous exploitation of him left him dead inside but still walking. He used ‘vampire’ as an allegory for her nature and tried to get sympathy for men by persuading readers that females of any species are more deadly than the male.

It is written narratively as if Kipling was a bystander. He used rhythm to control the enthusiasm and intensity, breaking it up with exclamation marks and italics, giving it a light-hearted lyrical tone.

It is a short poem – only six stanzas. His rhyme scheme is unusual but controlled – in stanza one the rhyme scheme is ABCACB, stanza two – DEFFE. Each stanza has its own rhyme.

The depiction of a vampiric woman was common in early poetry. Henry Thomas Liddell, a British poet published ‘The Vampire Bride (I am come – I am come!)’ in 1833.

A tale of a female vampire married by “nuptial pledge,” to a human man, preparing his body for an eternal undead life with her, draining the “warm life-blood” from him. Reaffirmed by line, “to-morrow be laid on a colder bed – Albert! that bed will be mine!” This highlights inequality of the sexes through property ownership. Prior to the Reform Act 1832, a rare number of female property owners had permission to vote. However, when the Act passed, women in Britain were officially banned from voting.

Alternate lines are indented for line continuation and to amplify the rhyme, pace, and feeling of the poem. Liddell, like Kipling, used many exclamation marks, creating an excited flow.

While not free verse, it is structured by a rhyme scheme in line two, eleven and twelve. Within the lines, lexical repetitions are found, emphasizing the imagery – ‘I’, ‘she’, ‘and’.

I liked the imagery of the word ‘shround’, and how it relates to the man lying on a bed, “like a corpse”. The word is miss-spelt, as ‘shrouds’ are the cloths wrapped around a person for burial.

Shrouds are also mentioned in ‘Oil and Blood’, by William Butler Yeats. Written in 1927, the imagery is vivid, “Their shrouds are bloody and their lips are wet.”

Yeats used vampire to describe the subjects, but used “tombs of old and lapis lazuli,” to paint a different image. Liddell and Kipling depicted life-sucking women, but Yeats talked of men and women surrounded by lapis lazuli – a deep, celestial blue stone, which remains the symbol of royalty, gods and honour.

With a singular stanza consisting of six lines, there is no rhyme scheme or rhythm, and appears to be free verse.

Poet, Madison Julius Cawein, was opposed to free verse, adhering to strict poetic structures. In 1896, Cawein published an iambic tetrameter sonnet, ‘The Vampire’. Sonnets typically are about love, but Cawein talks of beauty, mortality or lack thereof. Almost love in reversal – the abuse of love by power. Reiterated by the female vampire preying on men.

Middle-class men during this era sought the services of prostitutes. Prostitutes were labelled as ‘problems’ – men blamed them for ‘infecting’ the male population with sexually transmitted diseases. In 1860, the Contagious Diseases Act passed, which forced ‘infected’ women into asylums.

The poem was published in 1896, interestingly, the same time when suffragettes protested to change the law-enabled male exploitation of women. Some men brushed it off, H. G. Wells said, “the vote for women was an isolated fad and…an epidemic madness that would…pass.”

The strict alternative rima rhyme scheme used in this poem is ABAB in each stanza.

His imagery of her dark features and pale skin are vivid, and “of hell may smile…witch-words…the spell binds me to a fiend,” symbolizes her power over him.

“She rose among us…darkness shot across the sky…with mouth so sweet, so poisonous…blood-red moon…burning eyes…to thin the blood along our veins…possess me secretly…and darkness fell…” – such vivid imagery and portrayal of a woman preying on a man. Conrad Aiken’s “The Vampire,” in 1914, is chilling and beautiful.

Leading up to World War One, suffragettes were referred to as militants, used violence, alongside protesting, saying “they were at war with the British Government.”

With the makings of a ballad, it is a long poem of fourteen octave stanza’s – made up of two quatrains mostly. It’s about a beautiful female vampire using her beauty to lead men to their doom.

During this era women were only supposed to have sex with their husband. If she had sexual contact with another man, she was considered ‘ruined’.

The language used conveys intense and defined images, “basilisk eyes…skies grown red with rending flames.”

The rhyme scheme is aaabcccb for the octave stanzas. In the seven lined stanzas the rhyme scheme is ggghiih.

Literary device – anaphora, has been used at the beginning of successive lines, i.e. “she,” “and,” “with,” “we,” and is repeated throughout for artistic effect and to persuade emotions of readers.

Of all the poems my favourite was ‘The Vampire’ by Conrad Aiken, because of the language used to create sinister and vivid images.

Word count 786 (excluding quotes).

Reference List

Czaja, K. (2012). The vampire: poetry Friday. Retrieved fromhttps://www.katyaczaja.com/posts/pf34/

Kipling, R. (1987). The vampire. Retrieved from https://www.bartleby.com/364/121.html

Liddell, H.T. (1833). The vampire bride (I am come-I am come!). Retrieved from https://poets.org/poem/vampire-bride-i-am-come-i-am-come

Yeats, W.B. (1927). William Butler Yeats. Retrieved from https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/oil-and-blood/

Crystal Vaults. (2009). Lapis lazuli meanings and uses. Retrieved from https://www.crystalvaults.com/crystal-encyclopedia/lapis

Cawein, M.J. (1896). The vampire. Retrieved from https://theyearofhalloween.com/2011/10/18/the-vampire/

Aiken, C. (1914). The vampire. Retrieved from https://poets.org/poem/vampire

Wikipedia. (2019). Women’s suffrage in the United Kingdom. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women%27s_suffrage_in_the_United_Kingdom

Wikipedia. (2019). Women in the Victorian era.  Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_the_Victorian_era#Sexuality

Neale, R.S. (1967). Working-class women and women’s suffrage. Labour history, volume 12, pp. 16. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/27507859?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Winsor, M. (1914). The militant suffrage movement. The annals of the American academy of political and social science, volume 56, pp. 134. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/1011988?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

Hughes, K. (2014). Gender roles in the 19th century. Retrieved from https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/gender-roles-in-the-19th-century

Wallis, J. (2012). Looking back: this fascinating and fatal disease. The British psychological society, volume 25, pp. 790-791. Retrieved from https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-25/edition-10/looking-back-fascinating-and-fatal-disease

O’Brien, C. (2004). Looking at the female of the species. Retrieved from https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A2=rudyard-kipling;6f3cfbea.0405

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