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

The Pickering MS.

The Grey Monk

‘I DIE, 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,

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.

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

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.

‘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,

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,

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,

And became a tyrant in his stead.’