Home  »  The Poetical Works by William Blake  »  I saw a Monk of Charlemaine

William Blake (1757–1827). The Poetical Works. 1908.

Poems from the Rossetti MS.: Later Poems

I saw a Monk of Charlemaine

I SAW a Monk of Charlemaine

Arise before my sight;

I talk’d to the Grey Monk where he stood

In beams of infernal light.

Gibbon arose with a lash of steel,

And Voltaire with a wracking wheel:

The Schools, in clouds of learning roll’d,

Arose with War in iron and gold.

‘Thou lazy Monk,’ they said afar,

‘In vain condemning glorious War,

And in thy cell thou shall ever dwell.

Rise, War, and bind him in his cell!’

The blood red ran from the Grey Monk’s side,

His hands and feet were wounded wide,

His body bent, his arms and knees

Like to the roots of ancient trees.

‘I see, I see,’ the Mother said,

‘My children will die for lack of bread.

What more has the merciless tyrant said?’

The Monk sat down on her stony bed.

His eye was dry, no tear could flow;

A hollow groan first spoke his woe.

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 that all I wrote should prove

The bane of all that on Earth I love.

‘My brother starv’d between two walls;

Thy children’s cry my soul appals:

I mock’d at the wrack and griding chain;

My bent body mocks at their torturing pain.

‘Thy father drew his sword in the North;

With his thousands strong he is [marchèd] forth;

Thy brother has armèd himself in steel

To revenge the wrongs thy children feel.

‘But vain the sword and vain the bow,

They never can work War’s overthrow;

The hermit’s prayer and the widow’s tear

Alone can free the world from fear.

‘The hand of Vengeance sought the bed

To which the purple tyrant fled;

The iron hand crush’d the tyrant’s head,

And became a tyrant in his stead.

‘Until the tyrant himself relent,

The tyrant who first the black bow bent,

Slaughter shall heap the bloody plain:

Resistance and War is the tyrant’s gain.

‘But the tear of love—and forgiveness sweet,

And submission to death beneath his feet—

The tear shall melt the sword of steel,

And every wound it has made shall heal.

‘For the tear is an intellectual thing,

And a sigh is the sword of an Angel King,

And the bitter groan of the martyr’s woe

Is an arrow from the Almighty’s bow.’