Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Lamia is usually described as a sort of bogey-woman. Her story was chilling and more than a bit macabre - perfect for frightening small children. It is said that Greek mothers sometimes told their children this tale in order to make them behave.
However, the legend of the Lamia inspired more than fear, for the poet John Keats took up the subject in his poem entitled simply Lamia. An excerpt from the poet's description of Lamia follows:
"She was a gordian shape of dazzling hue,
Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue;
Striped like a zebra, freckled like a pard,
Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson barr'd;
And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed,
Dissolv'd, or brighter shone, or interwreathed
Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries-
So rainbow-sided, touch'd with miseries,
She seem'd, at once, some penanced lady elf,
Some demon's mistress, or the demon's self.
Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire
Sprinkled with stars, like Ariadne's tiar:
Her head was serpent, but ah, bitter-sweet!
She had a woman's mouth with all its pearls complete:
And for her eyes: what could such eyes do there
But weep, and weep, that they were born so fair?"
Lamia in Art History
Gallery | For pictures and information about Lamia in art, visit the Mythography gallery!
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Elementals: Stories of Fire & Ice
A contemporary version of the legend of the Lamia (A Lamia in Cevennes) is just one of the treasures you will find in this collection of stories from the magnificent writer A.S. Byatt.