The Despairing Man Draws a Serpent

By Thomas James Merton 1915–1968
I went up the hill
At moonrise.

She swore that she would come
By the south way.

A dusky hawk
Caught up the path
In his talons.

By Thomas Merton, from The Way of Chuang Tzu copyright ©1977 by The Abbey Gethsemani, Inc.  Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Source: The Way of Chuang Tzu (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1965)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Thomas James Merton 1915–1968


A monk who lived in isolation for several years, and one of the most well-known Catholic writers of the twentieth century, Thomas Merton was a prolific poet, religious writer, and essayist whose diversity of work has rendered a precise definition of his life and an estimation of the significance of his career difficult. Merton was a Trappist, a member of a Roman Catholic brotherhood known for its austere lifestyle and vow of . . .

Continue reading this biography

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.