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Monday, May 2, 2011

Number 143: William Blake "And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time?"

"And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time?"

And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England's mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England's pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England's green and pleasant Land.

-- William Blake

Hap Notes: Well, I just wasn't thinking or I'd have posted this for the royal wedding. This poem by Blake is set to music by Sir Hubert Parry ( in 1916) and is regularly sung in the Church of England and is called "Jerusalem." It was played at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. The Brits do not have an "official" national anthem and it has often been mentioned as a choice for it. In popularity polls in England "Jerusalem" always runs a close second to "God Save the Queen" (although many folks outside of the U.K. believe "Rule Britannia" is the national anthem, it is not.)

The poem is asking several questions concerning a theory that Jesus had once traveled, with Joseph of Arimathea to England. The story is often that Jesus "appeared" to him in England.

The "dark Satanic Mills" that Blake is speaking of are the factories of the Industrial Revolution, which spit up dark smoke and had inhuman working conditions. The "chariot of fire" is more than likely an allusion to Elijah who was taken up to heaven (without dying, by the way) in such a vehicle and yes, that's where the movie got its name.

In the legend, when Joseph put his staff on the ground in Glastonbury, England, it rooted to the ground and grew up as a "Glastonbury Thorn", a kind of Hawthorn tree. Traditionally a branch of Glastonbury Thorn is cut and shown every year in Buckingham Palace in May. (The flowers in the masthead are from the tree, with the original Blake manuscript.)

The song has always had a very deeply rooted place in the hearts of English citizens. I hesitate to call it a hymn because the term raises some controversy about the nature of the song. It's easy to see that Blake was worried about England and says that the fight for human rights will go on until England becomes a holy place, a paradise. The term "England's green and pleasant land" is an oft-used phrase to describe various parts of and things about England.

The royal family, by the by, must all be confirmed members of the Church of England. It is part of their responsibilities as reigning monarchs to maintain the church.

"Jerusalem" is often sung at cricket and rugby games.

Speaking of the royal wedding, if you've got an extra ten minutes here's Queen Elizabeth II, William's grandmother, getting married:

You will note that the ceremonies are pretty much the same as the one we saw Friday, 4/29/11.

But this is the 21st century so here's the official website of the wedding:

And here's "Jerusalem":

The inset photo is Joseph of Arimathea by Pietro Perugino. Joseph was also thought to be the first keeper of the "Holy Grail."

Here's where we've talked about Blake before:

1 comment:

  1. Blake being Blake, it is as likely that the "Dark Satanic mills" are churches as factories. He -really- didn't like the established church which "binds with briars my joys and desires."

    Of course, symbols being symbols, both interpretations are fine