Saturday, September 11, 2010

On building Jerusalem

"Christ as the Redeemer of Man" by William Blake

This afternoon I happened to hear part of the NPR broadcast of the Last Night of the BBC Proms 2010 (UK summer concert series). Toward the very end, the orchestra sounded the opening strains of "And did those feet" set to the tune "Jerusalem" and I found myself moved to tears. I don't know whether this was some kind of primal homesickness for "the Mother Country" or a deep longing for the new Jerusalem that is yet to be manifest. I just know it was truly meaningful.

The whole audience sang and the voices simply soared.

Here are those exalted words:

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 those 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

May it be so for England and, yes, for every land on this green and pleasant Earth.


  1. Ellie, were you born in the UK? ...

  2. Wot I mean ter say is, I know you've spent some time here but not how extensive that has been.

  3. Hi, Cathy. No, I was not born in the UK. However, I guess certain aspects of my upbringing had the effect of making me feel very connected indeed to the Britain. My mother (who was a literature professor, as it happens) read A.A. Milne to us as a regular thing (and this was before Disney got hold of Winnie the Pooh - ugh). My father was a very serious amateur tenor and he LOVED (and performed) Gilbert and Sullivan. Recordings of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company were being played rather constantly when I was a little kid. Ha! That stuff has a way of making you FEEL English!

    Of course, you know that I made my Solemn Profession (life vows) in Oxford. Trust me, that's a bonding experience!

    There's more, of course, but maybe this will give you a hint as to why I would tear up over "Jerusalem".

  4. Typo: Please delete "the" in front of "Britain" above.



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