Penn’s Pen: Poetry…From Prison

England’s persecution of the Quakers meant that William Penn spent a good deal of time in prison.  He wrote a lot of pamphlets defending his beliefs, but also expressed his fervor in poetry.  While in Newgate Prison in 1671, Penn wrote and sent this poem to Gulielma Springett.  Despite the wording of this poem, Quakers were subjected to serious financial penalties, not the physical torture of the rack!

Your Goals and Prisons we defie,

By bonds we’l keep our Libertie.

Nor shall your Racks, or Torments make

Us, e’re our Meetings to forsake.


Nor all your Cruelties afright

Our Hearts, that own & love the Light.

No, death can never make us bend,

Nor make our Conscience condescend.


For that Seed’s risen, wch will bow,

And lay your lofty Mountains low,

Your Hills shall fly away before

The Majesty that we adore.


And Heaven will display it self

Before your Eyes to our Releif,

And you that persecute shall know

A deadly Arrow from his Bow.


And vengeance, for a Recompense

He’l render you, in our Defence,

And overturn for evermore

False Prophet, dragon & the Whore.


By Mary Ellyn Kunz, Museum Educator


One comment on “Penn’s Pen: Poetry…From Prison

  1. kvennarad says:

    Very interesting. I have actually read ‘No Cross, No Crown’ and ‘Some Fruits of Solitude’ but didn’t know that Penn also wrote poetry (having said that – I can’t remember now – were there poems in ‘Fruits’?). It’s not great stuff from the point of view of poetry, just simple iambic tetrameter.

    Four Quakers were, I believe, hanged in Boston Massachusetts, Mary Dyer being the best known.

    Marie Marshall

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