Verse > William Blake > Poetical Works
William Blake (1757–1827).  The Poetical Works.  1908.
The Pickering MS.
The Grey Monk
‘I DIE, 1 I die!’ the Mother said,
‘My children die for lack of bread.
What more has the merciless tyrant said?’
The Monk sat down on the stony bed.
The blood red ran from the Grey Monk’s side,        5
His hands and feet were wounded wide,
His body bent, his arms and knees
Like to the roots of ancient trees.
His eye was dry; no tear could flow:
A hollow groan first spoke his woe.        10
He trembled and shudder’d upon the bed;
At length with a feeble cry he said:
‘When God commanded this hand to write
In the studious hours of deep midnight,
He told me the writing I wrote should prove        15
The bane of all that on Earth I love.
‘My brother starv’d between two walls,
His children’s cry my soul appalls;
I mock’d at the wrack and griding chain,
My bent body mocks their torturing pain.        20
‘Thy father drew his sword in the North,
With his thousands strong he marchèd forth,
Thy brother has arm’d himself in steel,
To avenge the wrongs thy children feel.
‘But vain the sword and vain the bow,        25
They never can work War’s overthrow.
The hermit’s prayer and the widow’s tear
Alone can free the world from fear.
‘For a tear is an intellectual thing,
And a sigh is the sword of an Angel King,        30
And the bitter groan of the martyr’s woe
Is an arrow from the Almighty’s bow.
‘The hand of Vengeance found the bed
To which the purple tyrant fled;
The iron hand crush’d the tyrant’s head,        35
And became a tyrant in his stead.’
Note 1. The original draft of ‘The Grey Monk’ is found in the Rossetti MS., where it forms part of the poem beginning ‘I saw a Monk of Charlemaine’. This earlier version consisted of fourteen stanzas, which Blake afterwards separated into two poems—transcribing nine stanzas, arranged in a slightly different order and with some changes noted below, into the Pickering MS., under the title ‘The Grey Monk’, and engraving five, with two others added later, as the untitled lines at the end of his ‘Address to the Deists’ (Jerusalem, f. 52). Stanzas ii and viii of this version are common to all three poems. 1 I die, I die] I see, I see Ross. MS. 2 die] will die Ross. MS. the stony bed] her stony bed Ross. MS. 15 the writing] that all Ross. MS. 20 mocks their] mocks at their Ross. MS. 22 marchèd] is marched Ross. MS. 24 avenge] revenge Ross. MS. 29 a tear] the tear Ross. MS. 33 found] sought Ross. MS. [back]

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