1917, “Jerusalem” & William Blake’s poem

The song “Jerusalem”, composed by Hubert Parry in 1916, is typically sung stirringly during celebrations by the people of England. Some among the English even consider it to be a national anthem of sorts.

The lyrics of Jerusalem come from William Blake’s poem “And did those feet in ancient time”, which was penned in 1808.

It seems to me, the fourth verse speaks to December 1917 when General Edmund Allenby captured Jerusalem from the Ottomans and made the land a part of the British Empire.

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

To “build something into” means to incorporate something into a structure, system or situation. Therefore, to build Jerusalem into England’s green and pleasant land can be read the way I have read it.

The first verse, to me, speaks to Constantine of York, or perhaps Alfred the Great. In other words, the Holy Spirit in England, in ancient time. The Trinity!

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!

In the second verse, it seems, Blake wonders, from some point in time after 1917, whether God as the Lord of Hosts enabled December 1917, despite some spiritual blindness among England’s leaders (clouded hills) and some evil among England’s industrialists (Satanic Mills).

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

The Balfour Declaration of November 1917, wherein the British government confirmed support for the establishment of a nation for the Jews, was a letter from Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Walter Rothschild.

By the way, the building of the Supreme Court of Israel, built in 1992, was donated to Israel by Dorothy de Rothschild. On its roof is a pyramid, for some reason. But now I digress.

Considered as a whole, William Blake’s poem is unmistakeably a call to arms to bring about December 1917.

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 & pleasant Land.

Reputedly, William Blake inscribed the following from Numbers 11:29 beneath his poem: “Would to God that all the Lord’s people were Prophets.”

What is most striking is that Hubert Parry composed the song Jerusalem in 1916 and then he died in 1918.

1917!

Advertisements