Wednesday, July 22, 2020


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Gates of Paradise: For the Sexes 
Plate 14
Does thy God O Priest take such vengeance as this?

David Erdman recognized that Blake was not unscathed by the brush with possible imprisonment and death which became his lot when his opposition to military action was expressed against the Dragoon who was ensconced in his garden. Erdman specifies changes in the way that Blake felt free to express himself after he came so close to losing his own liberty. Blake became more careful about expressing publicly what his prophetic vision revealed to him.

In Prophet Against Empire David V Erdman wrote on Page 414:

"The most immediate poetic record of Blake's mental suffering in time of trial, however, is the plaintive notebook ballad partly incorporated into the preface of the third chapter of Jerusalem and partly transcribed into another manuscript as The Grey Monk. The story of a tortured pacifist who will not recant is associated with Blake's trial by the fact that the Gothic courtroom of Chichester was known to have been the chancel of the Grey Friars convent church. The monk's martyrdom is that of the honest man who has written against war and empire and whose writings were found out. He has been accused of sedition, jailed by 'War' personified (the fourfold Scofield?) and has been temporarily allowed (on bail) to visit the mother of his children (Blake's only children being his 'Giants and Fairies')".
Jerusalem, Plate 52, (E 201)
" I saw a Monk of Charlemaine     
Arise before my sight 
  I talkd with the Grey Monk as we 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 rolld   
Arose with War in iron & gold.

  Thou lazy Monk they sound afar            
In vain condemning glorious War             
  And in your Cell you shall ever dwell     
Rise War & bind him in his Cell.

  The blood. red ran from the Grey Monks side
His hands & feet were wounded wide
  His body bent, his arms & knees          
Like to the roots of ancient trees

  When Satan first the black bow bent
And the Moral Law from the Gospel rent
  He forgd the Law into a Sword
And spilld the blood of mercys Lord.
  Titus! Constantine!  Charlemaine!               
  O Voltaire! Rousseau! Gibbon! Vain
 Your Grecian Mocks & Roman Sword  
Against this image of his Lord!

  For a Tear is an Intellectual thing;     
And a Sigh is the Sword of an Angel King
  And the bitter groan of a Martyrs woe 
Is an Arrow from the Almighties Bow!"

Songs and Ballads, (E 489)
"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 Monks side 
His hands & feet were wounded wide
His Body bent his arms & 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 & shudderd 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 lovd             

My Brother starvd between two Walls
His Childrens Cry my Soul appalls
I mockd at the wrack & griding chain              
My bent body mocks their torturing pain           

Thy Father drew his sword in the North
With his thousands strong he marched forth 
Thy Brother has armd himself in Steel      
To avenge the wrongs thy Children feel     

But vain the Sword & vain the Bow 
They never can work Wars overthrow
The Hermits Prayer & the Widows 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 Martyrs woe  
Is an Arrow from the Almighties Bow

The hand of Vengeance found the Bed      
To which the Purple Tyrant fled
The iron hand crushd the Tyrants head 
And became a Tyrant in his stead"  
Prophet Against Empire, Page 415:  
"To write against War has nevertheless been his duty as a soldier of Christ, and he is ready to endure the tortures of the 'wrack & gitding chain' for the sake of his 'Brother,' the poor man, 'starved between two walls' (that is to say in the street) and the poor man's children, whose cry ever 'my Soul appalls.'

In continuing to write, Blake does of course defy the rack and chains. Yet their marks are ever upon this ballad, for he mutes 'Seditious Monk', to 'Thou lazy Monk' before transferring it to the public text of Jerusalem."


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