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Jerusalem -- William Blake

this week's theme (sort of) - poems and rock music
(Poem #26) 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.
-- William Blake
from 'Jerusalem', 1804.

First, a Biographical Note, filched from the Wondrous World Wide Web
(yes, I shall be using a large number of Capital Letters in today's mail

"I do not behold the outward creation... it is a hindrance and not
action." Thus William Blake--painter, engraver, and poet--explained why
his work was filled with religious visions rather than with subjects
from everyday life. Few people in his time realized that Blake expressed
these visions with a talent that approached genius. He lived in near
poverty and died unrecognized. Today, however, Blake is acclaimed one of
England's great figures of art and literature and one of the most
inspired and original painters of his time.

Blake was born on Nov. 28, 1757, in London. His father ran a hosiery
shop. William, the third of five children, went to school only long
enough to learn to read and write, and then he worked in the shop until
he was 14. When he saw the boy's talent for drawing, Blake's father
apprenticed him to an engraver.

At 25 Blake married Catherine Boucher. He taught her to read and write
and to help him in his work. They had no children. They worked together
to produce an edition of Blake's poems and drawings, called Songs of
Innocence. Blake engraved both words and pictures on copper printing
plates. Catherine made the printing impressions, hand-colored the
pictures, and bound the books. The books sold slowly, for a few
shillings each. Today a single copy is worth many thousands of dollars.

Blake's fame as an artist and engraver rests largely on a set of 21
copperplate etchings to illustrate the Book of Job in the Old Testament.
However, he did much work for which other artists and engravers got the
credit. Blake was a poor businessman, and he preferred to work on
subjects of his own choice rather than on those that publishers assigned

A follower of Emanuel Swedenborg, who offered a gentle and mystic
interpretation of Christianity, Blake wrote poetry that largely reflects
Swedenborgian views. Songs of Innocence (1789) shows life as it seems to
innocent children. Songs of Experience (1794) tells of a mature person's
realization of pain and terror in the universe. This book contains his
famous `Tiger! Tiger! Burning Bright'. Milton (1804-08) and Jerusalem
(1804-20) are longer and more obscure works. Blake died on Aug. 12,

 - Mark Harden and Carol Gerten-Jackson, WebMuseum

Blake was a Certified Poetic Genius - equal parts visionary, mystic,
revolutionary, romantic, eccentric and lunatic. Early on in his career
as a printer, he rejected the methods and models of fashionable painting
and created, alongside many highly competent commissions (mainly
illustrations), an art of his own: fusing poetry, engraving and
book-binding into a single expression. Yet his wonderfully produced
books and prints (now greatly treasured as works of art), were always
merely vehicles for his intense, sometimes apocalyptic visions.

Through it all, though, his poems remained uncompromisingly 'true' in
thought and description - Blake could be bitterly critical of what he
saw as wrong with his beloved England. It was this harsh, almost
Puritanical criticism, coupled with his joyful and curiously childlike
visions of heaven, that inspired him to his greatest flights of lyricism

As usual, the Bard puts it best:

"Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
 Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
 More than cool reason ever comprehends.
 The lunatic, the lover and the poet
 Are of imagination all compact:
 One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
 That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
 Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:
 The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
 Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
 And as imagination bodies forth
 The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
 Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
 A local habitation and a name."

from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.

(Yes, I know, I cheated, I've included two poems instead of one today

What I like best about Blake, though, is the effortless skill with which
his verse is written. He creates wonderful, resonant phrases of lasting
beauty (almost the whole of today's poem, as well as the more famous
'Tyger', are testimony to that) using simple, natural, flowing language;
at a time when Euphuism (the use (some would call it abuse) of classical
allusions in poetry) ran riot, Blake's verse came like a breath of fresh
air. Sadly, it was not appreciated at the time.

Oh, and finally, the rock music connection: I really got to know and
appreciate this poem only after hearing Emerson, Lake & Palmer's
brilliant rock interpretation of it. Rarely have words, meaning and
music come together in such perfect synergy. Listen to it.


499 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

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Dan Marsh said...

I can't help but agree, both on the points of Blake's writing and the
Emmerson, Lake, and Palmer version of this poem. I've also heard that
Blake composed it as a hymn, for the Church of England. At any rate,
what I find so striking about this poem (and it is one of my favorite
poems) is not only the effortless and vivid rhyme scheme, but the power
of the last two verses. The strength of Blake's love for his native
country is deeply woven in every line, and his final declaration -- that
he will not rest until his land is pure and true-- is emphatic and

Blake is of a fascinating school of English Christian mystics--
spiritual yet not overbearing, his convictions are profoundly strong,
yet remarkably tolerant of other ideas. I frankly think that his
ideals, presented very well in this poem, are good ones regardless of
what religion one actually subscribes to, and are definitely worth

Victoria Heward said...

I've justfinished reading The Marian Conspiracies by (I can't remember)
which proposes an interesting theory on the writing of Blake's
'Jerusalem'. Blake saw or heard about a letter sent by St Augustine to
Pope Gregory in which he described a church in Britain which had been
built by Christ himself. Obviously this wasn't very good news for the
Roman catholics who thought themselves the first church and was
therefore hushed it up. Does anyone know anything about this or have any
other interpretations on Blake's idea that Christ walked on England's
green and pleasant land?

Rick Francis said...

My understanding is that the church stood at Glastonbury -- one tradition is that it was built by Joseph of Arimathea, who is also said to have brought the "three Marys" and the remains of Christ over the sea to the south of France. I have wondered if these stories represent a kind of reaction to the loss of the Crusaders' kingdom of Outremer in Palestine, as well as the resurgence of Marian sentiment that coincided with the romances of the jongleurs.

This poem of Blake's, by the way, is sung enthusiastically by Englishmen in pubs, where they punctuate it with shouts of "Fine girl you are!" The custom is preserved at a San Francisco watering hole for expats called the Edinburgh Castle, where I often used to go on Saturday nights -- they had a good piper there who knew much of the piobaireachd and played them well.


Murray Michael said...

I have to wonder if Blake was also writing to defend the pastoral life of
the English
countryside ("mountains green"... "pleasant pastures") against the
industrial revolution
("Among these dark Satanic mills?"). Earlier discussion points refer to
disdain of the "outward creation", so surely he would have been appalled at
how the
industrial revolution was reshaping both the countryside and English life.

Anne Shields said...

I cant help but thinking after reading deeper into the text of this poem, that it is infact a critisism of the opression that religion created in society at the time.The rhetorical questions for example,"and did those feet in ancient time walk upon Englands mountains green?" I think refers to Jesus, and the answer to that question would quite simply be no.He didnt walk upon english soil, there fore how can England be almost governed by a religion that infact had nothing to do with the country! "Bring me my bow of burning gold" this is blake linking religion with money and power,as the reference to gold and bow,a weapon used in war. The war reference, showing the power that religion actually had over the people of England in that time. "Bring me my arrows of desire" also a war like reference. The word 'desire' makes me think of a corruption of innocence,which is typical of Blake poems from 'songs of innocence and experience.' "Chariot of fire" the word fire,is a direct reference to hell,"Built jerusalem in Englands green and pleasant land" The building of Jeruselam throughout the poem is a metaphor for the control that the church had over people,particularly those who were less wealthy. Blake was truly a genius, i find it very odd that people actually sing this in churches to praise thier god and religion when i think it is actually quite the opposite.

A said...

I have but one question. Was Blake a freemason?

Roland Howell said...

It is however said that Christ did come to England to learn the tin trade in Somerset and that his time there may account for the "missing years"between his boyhood and his adult ministry.
Regards R. Howell

Bellord Frances said...

From someone in England. I don't think William Blake was worldly or well
connected enough to have been a freemason. Also this poem is sung loudly in
England at weddings in churches, I have just done so at a lovely wedding in
Beckenham, Kent.

Bellord Frances said...

And another thing about Blake, he lived in Lambeth, South London, with his
wife and was quite dotty. He believed that he saw the soul of a man in a
flea and was quite often to be seen at the bottom of his garden with nothing

Plainsinger said...

Ms Shields,

I beg to differ with some of your interpretations. Regarding fire's "direct
reference to hell", you forget the fire which burns in the belly (recall
Jeremiah's), and the Spirit's tongues of fire which rest upon the foreheads of the
believers (Acts 2). Blake was certainly referring to the chariots of fire which
appeared to take the prophet Elijah up to heaven in the whirlwind (2 Kings 2)
and those which surrounded Elisha on the hills as he claimed "Don't be
afraid... Those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Kings 6).
Blake is directing England's (and our) attention to the world of the spirit
which was so real to him. The sword incidentally is decidedly in Blake's hand,
where it will not sleep until Jerusalem has been "built" in his homeland. Yes,
Blake would have been frustrated by an oppressive and regimented church, but
the Jerusalem that he desires to see built is one builded in the heart and mind
of man. Whether he was conscious of it or not, Blake became and has become a
prophetic voice even in today's milieu of "clouded hills, Satanic mills," and
yet still "green and pleasant land." I leave you with his second stanza of the
Innocent Lamb. Peace, Jeremy Botts

Little Lamb I'll tell thee,
Little Lamb I'll tell thee;
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee,
Little Lamb God bless thee.

Nancy Schumaker said...

Victoria Heward got it right. Read Bloodline of the Holy Grail for the whole
story. There is
a great deal of historical information available now in this and other books
Mary Magdelene's escape across the sea to the south of France and Joseph of
Arimathea being a title, not the
name of a person, that person being Jesus' brother James, who eventually
ended up in what is now England.


FredRez said...

Every one is a free mason or controlled by them.

Sally said...

Jerusalem - first showed up in the movie "Chariots of Fire" - It
certainly is a hymn in the Church of England hymnal.
Thanks to a friend in England, I had something to go on to find all the
words and so found this site. The tune is in the Protestant Episcopal
Church hymnal of 1982, but not the same words.
It may have been written in the 18th century, but the words are for all
time. I was thinking the words belonged to the early industrial years
of England when the manufactories were belching out smoks, people and
children worked long hard hours in places which no idea of industrial
safety as there are now.

William L. Hathaway said...

The hymn became the associated with England's (my memory is
growing poor) religious socialist movement. As some of these
comments indicate, it was a favorite of the working class labor
congregations. Some years ago I was looking for it in the cur-
rent volume of Anglican hymnody but failed to find it. It was
in a Presbyterian (or Methodist) hymnal from which I Xeroxed
it. Memory also associates it with Fabian socialists, etc.
The use of it to end summer concerts together with Land of
Hope and Glory is sometimes sung several times by the audience,
since it affirms both middle class and working class hopes and
and heritage of all English people. Indeed, it stirs those of
us (English speaking people) who share the heritage and equal-
itarian dream.
Bill Hathaway

Carol Cox said...

This was written as a poem about 1804, then later music was composed for it. It was not written as a hymn but became one because of its stunningly powerful imagery and Biblical perspectives.

Remember the words to the Lord's Prayer: Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. There are many other Biblical images, both Old and New Testaments, that make the point that our job here on Earth is to become like Christ, and to work until the world around us is like Heaven. (Please do not misunderstand me. This is not about forced conversions or anything like that. It's about first allowing God to reign in the "kingdom" of ourselves, our own hearts and minds. As is always the case, who we are gets expressed in the world we build around us.) With these Christian concepts informing his views, Blake, I believe, is asking the rhetorical question if Christ has truly come to England. He's talking to Christians, upbraiding them. At the time these words were written, England was a "Christian nation," at least officially so.

It was written during a time when England was being ravaged by the Industrial Revolution (the effects of the "dark satanic mills") and England, being the first to experience the Industrial Revolution's awful societal impacts and disruptions, hardly knew what had hit them. Today we might look back and naively and ignorantly think about this in terms of pollutants and environmental destruction, but that would not begin to describe the horrible degradation of life that came. It was sooty air and horrible work conditions to be sure, but it was a thousand things more. It was the end of a whole rural, agrarian way of life where people knew each other in small villages. It was this enormous shift to urbanization with absolutely no infra-structure to support it, awful work conditions, horrible epidemics and diseases, dreadful prostitution of women who couldn't support themselves. This profound societal upheaval effected everyone: peasant and noble, parent and child, artisan and captain of industry. The "dark satanic mills" is shorthand for all this hellishness. In terms of "who is speaking" (the poetic voice) in the first two verses, I believe the "I" could be any honest observer at the time, looking about and asking these questions. In other words, has Christ truly been here?

In the last verses the "I" who is speaking is God Himself. The imagery is of war and wrath, in other words, God's judgment toward the Christian Church until these horrible unjust edifices are destroyed and we "build Jerusalem." God is not going to remove the judgment upon us until justice is done, until Jerusalem is built in England's green and pleasant land.

This is a powerful poem/hymn, and it's a shame so few seem to have the slightest clue what it's about. It's just a traditional, national hymn, oft sung and heard, but evidently without comprehension.

As inspiring as these words are, the notion that everyone should just rush out there and begin righting all wrongs is folly. These are words for honest Christians who know they can never do God's work until God has first done a work of grace and redemption in them.

So.Jerusalem first needs to be built in our hearts, then we are to go out and build it everywhere. I think that is awesome. Profound. Deep. Utterly challenging.

Thank you William Blake for these awesome words, still powerful and commanding after two centuries.


pete lohr said...

hello, i would like to add, keeping on topic, that i am suprised nobody has mentioned that one of the biggest heavy hitters on the rock and roll heavy metal sceen Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden gave tribute to William Blake's "Jerusalem" in one of the most amazing songs i have ever heard. whether you are a fan or not it is a must hear song.

Jane Clarke said...

William Blake was a Knight Templar, the forerunners of freemasons, and in his later years most of his references included symbols currently used in freemasonry. His poem Jerusalem is about the Holy Grail - in other words the bloodline of Jesus brought to England (people believe Glastonbury) by folowers of Joseph of Arimethea.
Joseph of Arimethea first ecaped from Egypt to France with Mary Magdalene and many believe with Sarah the daughter of Jesus and Mary.
The Knight Templars where burnt to death as heretics in France on Friday 13th 1307. Some escaped with the bloodline of Jesus and christian artifacts to Ireland, England and Scotland. The Holy Grail was believed to have been kept for many years in Glastonbury.

Jane Clarke (British woman living in Spain)

betty torrence said...

I would like to voice an opinion, and perhaps some helps on this topic.
I first heard Jerusalem in the VHS Tape by E.Raymond Capt, a Biblical Archeologist. He made this tape in Glastonbury, and many proofs are in the British Museum... I have never heard such a haunting melody. The name of the Tape is the "Traditions of Glastonbury".. Also Mr Capt has witten a book, same name.. Wonderful works.. TRUTHS and things to hold dear.
Hope this helps.. Its beautiful
Thanks for your site.

Ian Dick said...

I realise Blake may not have been an actual freemason , yet there are many clues that he had been influenced by freemasonry. Of course, the story of Joseph of A. and Glastonbury is a key part of the Grail legend.
Also the open-ness of Blake's views and breadth of imagination would encompass the Grail mysteries, such as Christ's marriage to Mary Magdalene ( she being the true 'grail' ie receptor of Christ's seed). But that is an aside.
Blake is to be seen in the broad liberalism of the 18th Century's philosophical scope which would have included may ideas from Freemasonry. However, his disdain of Isaac Newton sugests he was on the wrong foot in one respect, as Newton was a strong Freemason and possibly, a Grand Master.

jenny Ruddlesden said...

Have you ever heard of the saying "Hull, Hell or Halifax?"

Blake's Jerusalem was my school song (Akroyd Place Junior School, Halifax West Yorkshire 1950-1960). I was informed (from a school teacher at the time) that the words were penned in response to Blake's vision of the small industrial town (cloth, carpets, wool) as he viewed it from 'Godley Bridge' overlooking the town of Halifax, a small but very industrial mill town with blacked mills and lots industrial chimneys that churned out smoke and soot. The town is surrounded by hills that had very little pasture due to the local pollution (they are little improved today!).

Blake would have also noted the very impressive 'Halifax Parish Church' (CofE) and the Square Chapel - which may have had Knight Templar links.

I don't know if this helps but I thought I'd share it.

Respectful of all view expressed - JennyR

Karen Bruce said...

It is a mistake to divorce those lines from the larger epic to which they form a prologue. One of the longer works in his mythological cycle, Milton is Blake's personal, idiosyncratic response to the other poet's famous Paradise Lost. In it, he has Milton leave heaven and return to earth, after he realizes that his religious epic has served the purposes of tyranny and inhumanity, and therefore has enslaved Albion (representing England and Man simultaneously). To the Romantics, the Miltonic God was a tyrant, demanding absolute obedience from Satan and the Angels, punishing those who disobeyed him.

While on earth, Milton has two lessons to learn. Firstly, he needs to learn how to identify, give form to and annihilate all that is not human with himself. This means seeing through or taking off everything that constrains humanity, like the bodily senses (which Blake saw as limiting true vision), like the arbitrary division into the two sexes. Secondly, Milton has to learn the true nature of love, namely, that it combines both wrath and pity. One without the other is ineffectual at least, dangerous at worst.

When it comes to the actual lines that are commonly known as Jerusalem, they are essentially a call for a profound transformation to take place in England among Blake's compatriots.

In the poem, Blake asks whether Jesus was "on Englands pleasant pastures seen", and whether Jerusalem was "builded here / Among these dark Satanic Mills"? It is a mistake to take these lines too literally, as some scholars have done. For the Romantics, Jesus was a revolutionary figure, who had stood against the tyranny of the Roman government and legalistic religion, who was a martyr for a revolutionary cause. Similarly, for Blake, Jerusalem represented a city that allowed humanity to be true to its own imagination, that was characterised by perfect justice and perfect freedom. If we understand those facts, the opening two stanzas make a great deal more sense. If a revolutionary like Jesus had once walked in England, if an ideal city had been built there, it could happen again. People could rise up and overthrow the tyrants, and create cities that were more conducive to humanity.

However, at the same time, Blake was convinced that true freedom was not possible while people's minds and imaginations were still in chains. He believed in the existence of an unspoken compact between the rulers and the people who allowed themselves to be ruled, so that tyranny was more of a state of mind than a physical condition. (In modern parlance, we would say that people internalize their oppression.) It did not matter if people were physically free if they were still mentally and imaginatively oppressed. Therefore, the bow, the chariot, the spear for which he calls are not physical ones, but ones to equip himself for the "Mental Fight" to which he refers in the fourth and final stanza. (There is obviously an implicit comparison with the Satanic Mills here, and the physical weapons that they produce.) This combat will be detailed in the remainder of the epic as Milton strives to transform himself mentally and imaginatively.

Mike Underwood said...

Dear Carol Cox,

Enjoyed reading your comments on Jerusalem very much. I felt that you got straight to the point and were not distracted at all. No one else I remember referred to the fact that Jerusalem is a metaphor for the Kingdom of God - ie. a state of being where He is the master of the heart, after all we die in sin without Christ in us.

After the lines "arrows of desire" etc, we are left wondering what Blake meant by "nor shall my sword sleep in my hand.." but then, I think we are meant to work out for ouselves what this means, and after the preceding lines, we can only think in allegorical terms.

Insidentally, since reading the tao te ching, I have begun to wonder if Jesus visited China rather than studying buddhism. There are so many parallels - the use of similar metaphors etc, and also "Tao te Ching" means "The way of Heaven and its power". Christ is the Way! Christ is also Heaven, and He is also called Power, Wisdom.....


JGarde373 said...

I don't believe that Blake constructed this poem as a hym to the hristian
church because Blake was completely against organised religion which he
considered repressive. He believed that the church used its power and sense of
mystery to exploit people and to keep the poor in poverty and justify the power of
the church. He also belived that the church scared people intro 'doing their
duty' as they would be rewarded in the after life pr punished if they did not
follow the chrches values. Look at the poem 'The Human Abstract' which
explores this more deeply.
Also Jerusalem is criticising the industrial revolution and saying that
England shuld reamin as a rural and pleasant land where innocence is not lost to
the poverty of the larger cities. If you study Blake's\poems you will notice
that his innocence poems are often set in rural areas and his experience poems
in cities ans urban areas as he considered industrialisation 'satanic'.
Jerusalem is not a religious poem

Kilted911 said...

I must say that I am saddened, yet not really surprised, that there are
those who would twist the meaning of this beautiful poem-turned-hymn into
something that it is not. Jerusalem is paradise, with Jesus Christ reigning supreme.

Michael Scuffil said...

The first six lines consist of three questions, which are basically one
question, namely: is the Glastonbury legend true? Blake's answer I think is
non-committal: "I don't know whether Jesus was here or not, but..." This
leads us to the fourth question, to which Blake's answer, in modern
parlance, would be "You cannot be serious!!". Unfortunately, the music puts
the stress on "builded", but it should be on "here". It is a bitter
question -- look what we've done to the place!

The next four lines are a metaphor for ecstasy, or rather they are a (fairly
transparent) metaphor for orgasm, which should be interpreted broadly. This
defines how Blake (a believer in "free love") interpreted "Jerusalem", which
is of course a reference to the New Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation (the
antithesis of organized religion). He would fight to establish in England a
New Jerusalem ruled by the heart and not by the head (and certainly not by
those who had built the Satanic mills).

If there is one thing that can be said about Blake, it is that he was
anti-Enlightenment. It is a dangerous position, though possibly a necessary

Michael Scuffil

Curtis Rice said...

William Blake and his wife used to upset the neighbours by sitting in the
front yard naked. It is also to be noted that William Blake believed that
many of his works were whispered to him by the voice of his dead
brother. Both of these facts are touched upon in the William Blake
biography by Peter Ackroyd.

-- Curtis Rice

Bobaldcraft said...

Countless school children have had to sing this as their"school song" and
many,many mourning families have included it in the funeral rites of a loved
one. It is even regarded as Britain's "unofficial national anthem" -
but what does it mean.? This is another example of us mouthing words we do
not understand just because we are too mentally lazy to find out.

McGillicuddy Colin said...

A quibble with the opening description of Blake and his influences --
while Blake did initially fall under Swedenborg's sway, he ultimately
rejected him, and violently so.

Colin McGillicuddy


St. Thomas Aquinas RCSS

124 Dorval Drive

Oakville, ON

L6K 2W1


Peter Brown said...

Although it's true that Parry's 'Jerusalem' is everybody's old school song -
and a national football chant - it's really best known in Britain for two
reasons. First, it's sung every September at the televised Last Night of the
Proms at the Albert Hall, the last of the Promenade Concerts started by Sir
Henry Wood which have been going for more than 100 years. The audience is
huge, so the poem/hymn/song has become identified with patriotism, perhaps
unfairly, since it is sung alongside 'Rule, Britannia'. Second, 'Jerusalem'
is the hymn of the Women's Institute, a powerful body of women living mainly
in country towns and villages who these days are wielding some political
clout and not that long ago gave the British Prime Minister Tony Blair a
very embarrassing time when he addressed their conference. They sing it at
the end of every weekly meeting. At least, they did when I were a lad.
Peter Brown

sean benton said...

Will everyone please stop with the Holy Blood and the
Holy Grail crap and following on from that with the Da
Vinci Code story which is based on the HB&HG ?
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail are a load of
rubbish,the guy who was the so called descendant of
this story has confessed that it was all made up and
is a complete load of nonsense.The DVC is a FICTIONAL
STORY with its premise based on thr HBHG whatever the
courts say,it is truly incredible that so many people
take this as truth !!
As for Jesus travelling to England to work in the tin
industry which are his 'missing years',I am lost for
words.Unbelievable...........Did he build this church
on bank holidays and weekends while he was working as
a tin miner ?
No Jesus didn't visit China,(Jesus wept........).
I am sorry,there are a lot of excellent points made on
this thread regarding this hymn,William Blake,the
meaning etc.,but please do not take the HBHG and DVC
as fact,they are fiction,they have made some people
lots of money and make HERETICAL statements about
Christ !! Do you believe everything you read in the
papers ? then why believe all that you read in
fictional books.I apologise,rant over !

MCElida said...

Re: Tiger Tiger Burning Bright. I read your comments . I am a teacher of
fifth graders and They enjoyed this poem so much. I wandered if you could
tell me who composed the music for it and the title of the music. I remember
singing it in my college glee club but I can't remember the music that
accompanied it. I would appreciate your students too!

MCElida said...

Would you happen to know where I could find the music that accompanies
Blake's Tiger Tiger Burning Bright?
My students enjoyed the poem so much that I thought it would be fun for them
to learn how to sing it. When I was in college I sang it in the chorus but
I can't even remember the melody now. Thank you for any help you can give
me. By the way my students are fifth graders.

JulianScot said...

Moving, deep, unfathomable, perplexing.

Always leaves me with a feeling of macrocosmical emptiness and

A harsh reminder of what I will never achieve.

It is always said that the most simplistic spoken or written word has the
most power behind it. This is the most apt example.

From a teeny weeny little minion in

John Rinne said...

This truly beautiful hymn, was part of Charles and Diana's wedding in 1981. It was also used in the movie, Chariots of Fire. I always thought it was inspired by Glastonbary. I was watching Hugh Grant and" 4 weddings and a Funeral" last night, and the hymn was used in the first wedding scene.

Kennedy Peter said...

Blakes poetry is filled with disdain at the "mind-forged manacles" that the Church imposed upon humanity. A closer examination of Songs of Innocence and Experience shows that while Blake was deeply spititual, his God was the God of natural beauty, which he sees as having been corrupted and restrained by the 'church' God, as created by humanity. The songs of innocence are not just the songs of a child, they are the song of the uncorrupted God. Experience is God as he has been corrupted by man.

In Jerusalem, there is a clear link between God and nature, and Man and industry.
The clouded hills, and satanic mills are both the smog and pollution of industrial man, and also the darkness that man has cast upon the natural beauty of God's creation.

I believe that the bow and arrows (of desire?) bring to mind the burning passion of Cupid, and the heat of Love, the very emotions that the 'church' tries to stifle. And the sword in his hand is the sword of Justice. A justice that Blake considers worthy of fighting for. The triumph of God over mankind.


jayans said...


Read your insightful reading of William Blake.
i think all mystics are mystics because they refute the supremacy of organised religion. In a mystic's union with the ultimate, he reaches a stage where he hears this: You and i are One. (Nijkos Kazantzakis said this.)

You are right. Blake's interpretation of Jerusalem is essentially subversive which the blind 'spiritual literary theorists' cannot see. Why? Because they are obsessed with finding their religious agenda in everything.



Patrick McCafferty said...

Those interested might check out Tim Blake's "New Jerusalem", a beautiful electronic album containing the last few lines of the poem. Blake is a gifted synthesist who did much of the great keyboard work for Gong. The recitation of the lines against the music is enthralling.

gemma craggsie said...

Practical criticism Blake.

In understanding this poem one has to have knowledge about the time and
context of when it was written, as these circumstances shape all literature.
This is the case for Blake and his poem, ‘Jerusalem.’ At this time
Britain’s industry was expanding at an alarming rate, and Blake wasn’t the
only poet to criticise the industrial revolution, Thomas Hardy did also (
one of my favourite poets). There was also a movement called the
‘Luddites,’ who went around destroying various machines which replaced
man-power. Even though there were a minority, it does show that there was a
conflict in England at the time between nature and growing industry, as
reflected in the poem, ‘Jerusalem.’
Blake was clearly against industrialisation, which in his opinion was
defiling Britain. He makes direct reference to industry with its, “Dark
Satanic mills.” Note the double negative of ‘dark’ and ‘Satanic’ showing
just how much it contrasts to, “England’s green and pleasant land,” creating
effect via contrasts. Describing the mills as ‘Satanic’ has certain
implications on the poem, it almost sounds like a battle of good (Nature)
vs. evil (industry), which may account for the weaponry in stanza three,
“Bring me my spear.” However, the third stanza in my opinion is perhaps the
most difficult to ‘un-pick,’ as the meaning can change the tone of the poem
completely. Its importance is shown by the break down of the flow of the
poem. I think the weapons in the third stanza are purely symbolic and may
represent the human spirit; violence wouldn’t tie into the poem and would be
almost clumsy, certainly not in the romantic spirit!
This poem’s real power in when Blake addresses the reader, I think
Wordsworth uses this poetical device too. Blake asks rhetorical questions,
“And did those feet in ancient times?” Which could be Blake appealing to
the reader directly, if Jerusalem was here would it feel contempt towards
industry? It would be easy to support this opinion as the “Lamb on God,”
clearly has not been considered in man’s increasing need for power via trade
nor protected by the church.
This could account for Blake’s deep loathing for the church with its
apathetic attitude to the values that Blake held so dear (read ‘ The
Chimney Sweeper’ from Song of Innocence and Experience, where the church
condones a society able to inflict such cruelty on the young) even though
Blake did believe in God. Incidentally almost all of Blake’s poetry has some
religious connections, ‘Jerusalem,’ is no different. For example Jesus went
missing from the age of 14 to 30, this poem seems to imply rather obscurely
that he was in England, “And did those feet…” I feel at the heart of the
poem is about the conflict between nature and industry and a church that
seems to do nothing to save the people from the “Dark Satanic mills.”
Blake’s attitude towards the Church is best demonstrated in the collection
of poems, “Song of Innocence and Experience.” The poem ‘A little boy lost,’
seems to express this conflict between religion and nature (off track some
what but it’s a great poem.) In this poem a priest will not recognise a
young boy whom expresses his instinctive attitude to life, “Nought loves
another as itself.” Religion is infuriated by this natural truth and the
priest burns the boy. Thought this I know is so self indulgent and off
track, but poetry is the most intimate form of literature so of course
Blake’s work reflects his feelings, which are interchangeable like
opinions, so no one person will read a poem the same way, something Blake
apparently intended.
I agree with both Anne and the gentleman who wrote an extremely long
reply to her. But I feel she is too cynical and he is not cynical enough.
This is one of our country’s most loved hymns and I say so what if it is
sometimes sang in ignorance, sometimes poetical mystery is what makes a poem
most attractive, this can defiantly be said for most of Blake’s poetry,
especially ‘Jerusalem’.

Gemma- an A grade English literature student who never studied Blake!

Andy Craggs said...

Attached is my

Andy Craggs said...

Sorry this is the completed one!xxx

[ illume ] said...

First of all, Blake was not a Freemason or a Knight Templar.
He would never have created this as a hymn for the Church of England, he
did not like the Church and he did not like what Christianity was.
He represents the idea of a creator god a 'Urizen', who is pure reason
and logic but he is blind, specifically to the human condition. He doesn't
like Urizen, he himself is represented by 'Los' in his poems, he is the
eternal poet and his son, Orc, is the spirit of revolution who would
eventually challenge Urizen.
Blake was not a good church going Christian and he would turn in his
grave if he saw what his work was being put to today. He disliked priests
and much of what the Church stands for just as much now as it did then. If
you read 'The Garden on Love' and as for his views of Christianity, stuff
like 'Marriage of Heaven and Hell' really does start to suggest that he is
certainly not a Christian even if he does reference a lot of Christian
Infact 'Jerusalem' as you title it isn't actually a seperate thing, it is
part of a preface to the poem 'Milton'.
If Blake was of any religion, he was a Gnostic and I certainly think that
he would have disliked such secret societies and the Knights Templar and the
Freemasons, as he was infact a workers revolutionary, he supported the
American revolution and the French revolution and was infact at one point
put on trial for High Treason for damning the king and saying the soliders
were slaves. He mingled with the likes of Thomas Paine the famous
revolutionary who was present at both American and French revolutions and
was forced out of England for his views.
So a patriotic song to sing in the pub? Maybe if you're a COE going
ex-patriot who refuses to see that it is indeed a critique of the society.
He loved the country, it doesn't mean he loved the people who ruled it.
I find English patriotism disturbingly blinding at times. Especially
those who thought Blake wanted to 'cleanse' England.

- John Dillinger

Viagra Online said...

I think that the last stanza summarizes Blake's poem
"Jerusalem", he stated that he will not stop thinking about, fighting the fake faith, nor will he stop writing and expresing his thought about it till the real faith, faith in God is established in England

Anonymous said...

Can anyone tell me why Blake wanted to eradicate 'these satanic mills' in the first place ... ?

Anonymous said...

Agreed, Blake was NOT a member of the Knight Templar or the Freemasons.

الايفون said...

i read many investigation about blake and his relation with the knight Templar but at end of all of them no can can prove that he is one of them

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Anonymous said...

Just maybe you are all quite wrong!
Dark Satanic Mills may be the way Blake described the Church with its fixed views and Dark buildings. He never stepped in to a curch except to draw memorials for James Basire as an apprentice. He was a Dissentor and a Mugletonian! yes really!
As for the Haifax story, well yes we all have a simliar one if we came from the Grimy North.(I did) Unfortunately most of the mills were not built when the song was written!
Well, no one thought about another possibility: Mills could mean high craggy cliffs. Blake refers to England especially ( and notably NOT Albion, his usual name) and so the "Mills" may mean places with high craggy cliffs, ie Wales and Scotland. Blake drew images from visions of Wallace, King Edward and Owen Glendower who he claimed "sat" for him to sketch. He was obviously very conscious of matters surrounding these countries.
And there is no evidence yet come my way that Blake ever travelled north. ( The BBC said that he did see Cromford Mill in Derbyshire but...) He lived in the London area,south of the Thames and at Feltham, by the sea. He hated crossing the Thames to the north bank as it left him in a terrible state for days afterwards.
Lots to think about here. I think the debate is wide open. As the poem is allegorical why do people suddenly interpret "Satanic Mills" literally? Surely that alone cannot be right?
Kindest regards to all readers, Charles

Anonymous said...

The comment on satanic mills is not correct. Textile mills in Bradford, Huddersfield & Halifax were well established when he wrote Jerusalem. Additionally London was the most advanced manufacturing base in the world & was know for it's "satanic" slums which surrounded the factories, manufacturing anything from bricks to gunpowder. Blake may never have been to the industrial north, but he did hate travelling north of the Thames. This would tie in with his gross dislike for going there.

Although today the words in Jerusalem are associated with early Socialism , in fact it was the British land owning aristocracy who adopted the hymn as they were concerned about the growth & power the new trading merchants were obtaining. They realised that their inherited power would be diluted by "new money" & believed the rousing words & tones would dis-encourage industrialism for their own benefit. This also coincided with bringing back knighting. Up to the late 18th century the practice was all but forgotten, but the aristocracy believed by knighting they could suck the wealthy industrialist in to their own circles & thus weaken their ambitions. To a large extent they were successful.

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Anonymous said...

My understanding is a little different again – I am drawn to the analysis which suggests that the true enemy was the worship of science and technology (hence a dislike of Newton for instance) and the subsequent intellectual spewing out of agnosticism from the satanic mills of Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The gnostic Blake carries the shining weapons of a true and unsullied faith to protect all that he loves – without subscribing to the institutionalisation of organised religions and all the power and corruption therein. He seeks a return to the more naïve innocence of inner faith. Blake was truly spiritual. However in searching for his ideals he polarised science and reasoning as opposites of faith, instead of exploring philosophically how these might co-exist

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