" instead of leaving traces of ‘decay’s effacing fingers,’ had but restored the beauty of life"

This is a reference to a line from Lord Byron’s poem The Giaour (1813).

 

Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha, Eugène Delacroix, 1827
Public DomainCombat of the Giaour and the Pasha, Eugène Delacroix, 1827 - Credit: wikimedia commons

He who hath bent him o'er the dead

Ere the first day of Death is fled,

The first dark day of Nothingness,

The last of Danger and Distress,

(Before Decay's effacing fingers

Have swept the lines where Beauty lingers,)

 

The poem is one of the earliest fictional works to mention vampires:

 

But first, on earth as vampire sent,

Thy corse shall from its tomb be rent:

Then ghastly haunt thy native place,

And suck the blood of all thy race;

There from thy daughter, sister, wife,

At midnight drain the stream of life;

Yet loathe the banquet which perforce

Must feed thy livid living corse:

Thy victims ere they yet expire

Shall know the demon for their sire,

As cursing thee, thou cursing them,

Thy flowers are withered on the stem.

 

Read the full poem and other works of Byron here