Vespers and Vampires – Poems from my personal collection of original and vintage verse created by writers we should’ve heard about (or heard much more of) long ago. “Owen Meredith” was a pseudonym used by Lord Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton (1831-1891) an English statesman and poet. While nearly forgotten today, the poetry of Owen Meredith was popular during his time.
I found a corpse, with golden hair,
Of a maiden seven months dead.
But the face, with the death in it, still was fair,
And the lips with their love were red.
Rose leaves on a snow-drift shed,
Blood-drops by Adonis bled,
Doubtless were not so red.
I comb’d her hair into curls of gold,
And I kiss’d her lips till her lips were warm;
And I bathed her body in moonlight cold,
Till she grew to a living form:
Till she stood up bold to a magic of old,
And walk’d to a mutter’d charm—
Life-like, without alarm.
And she walks by me, and she talks by me,
Evermore, night and day;
For she loves me so, that, wherever I go,
She follows me all the way—
This corpse—you would almost say
There pined a soul in the clay.
Her eyes are so bright at the dead of night
That they keep me awake with dread;
And my life-blood fails in my veins, and pales
At the sight of her lips so red:
For her face is as white as the pillow by night
Where she kisses me on my bed:
All her gold hair outspread—
Neither alive nor dead.
I would that this woman’s head
Were less golden about the hair:
I would her lips were less red,
And her face less deadly fair.
For this is the worst to bear—
How came that redness there?
‘Tis my heart, be sure, she eats for her food ;
And it makes one’s whole flesh creep
To think that she drinks and drains my blood
Unawares, when I am asleep.
How else could those red lips keep
Their redness so damson-deep?
There’s a thought like a serpent, slips
Ever into my heart and head,—
There are plenty of women, alive and human,
One might woo, if one wish’d, and wed—
Women with hearts, and brains,—ay, and lips
Not so very terribly red.
But to house with a corpse—and she so fair!
With that dim, unearthly, golden hair,
And those sad, serene, blue eyes,
With their looks from who knows where,
Which Death has made so wise,
With the grave’s own secret there—
It is more than a man can bear!
It were better for me, ere I came nigh her,
This corpse—ere I look’d upon her,
Had they burn’d my body in flame and fire
With a sorcerer’s dishonour.
For when the Devil hath made his lair,
And lurks in the eyes of a fair young woman,
(To grieve a man’s soul with her golden hair
And break his heart, if his heart be human,)
Would not a saint despair
To be saved by fast or prayer
From perdition made so fair?