William Blake’s now famous hymn started life as a rather obscure poem. Blake (1757-1827) was a poet, artist and visionary, who was very little regarded in his own lifetime. He lived most of his life in London, where he was very aware of the gulf between the rich and poor. As the Industrial Revolution took hold, the lot of many of the urban poor was particularly grim. “Jerusalem” was inspired by the legend that Jesus came to Glastonbury as a child with Joseph of Arimathea, who the legend insisted was his uncle (though there is absolutely no evidence for either of these ideas.)
The stirring tune was written by Hubert Parry (1848-1918) (See Day 15). It was originally written for the “Fight for Right” campaign, intended to drum up support for WW1, but Parry grew uneasy about the war, and withdrew permission for its use by the campaign. At the request of Millicent Fawcett of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, Parry orchestrated it instead for a Suffrage Demonstration concert in 1918. When the vote was won and the organisation was wound up, he gave the copyright to the Women’s Institute, and has become strongly identified with them ever since, giving their meetings the nickname of “Jam and Jerusalem”.
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.
- · How do you feel about your homeland? How can we properly love the place in which we live?