The Vampire by James Clerk Maxwell 1845

The Vampire by James Clerk Maxwell 1845

Translated into modern English by R Edwards

There is a knight riding through the woods,
A brave and noble knight is he.
And surely he is on an urgent quest,
He rides so hastily.

He passed the oak and the birch trees,
And many other trees passed he,
But pleasant to him was the slender willow,
For beneath it he did see

The fairest lady that he ever saw,
She was so bright and fair.
And there she sat beneath the willow,
Combing her golden hair.

The knight said “Oh beautiful lady,
What chance has brought you here?
Just say the word and you shall go
Back to your family dear.”

The fair lady spoke up:
“I have no friends or kin,
But in a little boat I live,
Amidst the waves’ loud din.”

The brave knight answered:
“I will follow you through all,
For if you live in a little boat,
The world seems to it small.”

They went through the woods, to the end they came:
And there they saw the sea foam white.

And then they saw the tiny boat,

That danced atop the waves so bright.
First got in the fair lady,
Then the brave knight.

They rowed in the tiny boat
With all their might;
But the brave knight turned about,
And looked upon the lady bright;

He looked upon her rosy cheek,
And into her eyes so bright,
But her cheek grew deathly pale,
As if she was dead that night.

The false, false knight grew pale with fright,

His hair stood up on end,
For days gone by came to his mind,
And his former love he did recognize.

The lady spoke “You false knight
Have done me great ill,
You did forsake me long ago,
But I am constant still;

For though I lie in these cold woods,
At rest I cannot be
Until I suck the lifeblood

Of the man who caused me to die.”

He saw her lips were wet with blood,
And her merciless eyes did shine,
Loud he cried “Get away from my side,

You unclean vampire corpse!”

But no, he was in her magic boat,
On the wide and winding sea;
And the vampire sucked his lifeblood,
She sucked until he died.

So beware, whoever you are,
That walks in this lonely wood:
Beware of that deceitful ghost,
The ghoul that drinks the blood.


James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) was a Scottish mathematician and physicist who made major contributions to electromagnetism and thermodynamics. He is best known for formulating the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together electricity, magnetism, and light as different manifestations of the same phenomenon.