Friday, April 11, 2008


Read it all here at T19. Some things we just can't make up. So much for England. Wonder if Colin Slee thinks Margaret Thatcher wrote it. The Socialists must just be spinning.

What silliness that Dean Slee banned it because it's not about God (when did that suddenly become that an issue for him?) but that it causes the English to feel passionate for their country - so passionate that they might go off and fight the for the freedom of the oppressed in like, say Afghanistan or Iraq. And of course even that might cause the Socialists to spin some more. More irony. It's like a nursery rhyme repeated by children, like "Mary, Mary quite contrary" which is about Bloody Queen Mary chopping off her opponents heads (oh and by the way, guess where she decided to do that!). At some point we stop listening to the meaning of the words.

Of course, there is that little reference to something called the countenance divine, but perhaps Colin Slee does not know who that is.

This story is just filled with irony. William Blake, who called his poem "A Preface to Milton" (which gives us some important context, by the way) would also be dumbfounded, we expect. Now who is Left and who is Right? Hard to tell, isn't it?

And that it's Southwark Cathedral of all places is probably one of the greatest ironies of them all.

Read more here and here.

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.
NOTE: You may want to watch and listen to other arrangements and performances of Jerusalem by clicking the thumbnail videos that appear when the video ends. The selections are quite diverse, from wistful to wild. In the meantime, we are toasting William Blake, one of my mother's favorite poets. She was the one that first introduced me to Blake. In response, I memorized many of his poems, including this one.

Southwark Cathedral banning Blake. Some things we just can't make up.


Anonymous said...

I can't imagine you having a problem banning a hymn that has no basis in scripture.

Unknown said...

Ah, you must be new here, Anon. We are often quite "Beat" here, as our devotion to Jack Kerouac attests.

But of course, Blake's Preface to Milton is filled with biblical imagery. You can read more about the biblical imagery and biblical references here:

The mountains green are an allusion to the Garden of Eden in the Bible.... to the unfallen world of England's green and pleasant land. A poetic hope from Blake because he felt himself being slowly ground to death by his industrialized world, the brutal exploitation, the fires of the new industrial furnaces and the cries of the child laborers are always in his work. His poems and designs are meant to convey his spiritual vision beyond the factory system, the hideous new cities, the degradation of children for the sake of profit,and the petty crimes for which children could still be hanged.

He specifically alludes to this immediate fate of millions in the industrial England of the "dark satanic mills." The key characters, Countenance Divine , that populated the questions in the second stanza of his imaginative universe of course, come from the last chapters of Revelation, when John is brought up to a high place,upon our clouded hills, and shown a new heaven and new earth, and sees the City of God, the New Jerusalem, descending from heaven.

Blake was afraid that the human cost was too great for England to survive what he saw in the gray squalor of the Clydebank, the great industrial maw of Manchester and Liverpool, the slums and the broken families. His boyhood London was a filthy, dank and sooty place, a scene of political and social repression far from the green and pleasant land he dreamed about and aspired to with the his own personal doctrine that rationalism should be balanced by imagination.

The unceasing Mental Fight he speaks of in last verse included the intellectual development of science, as well as art which he so desired by reuniting England with Jerusalem on a truly revolutionary and early Christian religious basis. Positive at first that Britain would have a revolution like those in America and France, he finally came to a realization that that the only revolution that would embrace Britain as a whole was industrial, not political.

From here:

And who is the voice in the poem addressing? Who is to bring the sword, the arrows, the spear, the chariot of fire?

Just who do we think could deliver on those requests but God? The vow is to God. And that's the problem.

What astonishes here - at least at my table - is that this story is filled with nearly gallows-style irony, which being at this particular Cathedral makes the irony simply astonishing. Ah Shakespeare, ah Chaucer.

No wonder my ancestors left. And Virginians have long memories.

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

See, he likes to ask rhetorical questions. It's the answers that seem to bug this Dean who should never call himself a liberal, unless he means it in jest.


Anonymous said...

I love the Blake hymn/poem.

Jerusalem means:

Yireh - awe, worship

Shalom - Peace, wholeness

That adds up to wholehearted reverent true worship that brings the soul into the state of peace and the process of healing. Worship of the Triune God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, in spirit, truth (John 4) and the beauty of holiness is communion with God and is our Heavenly Jerusalem, our Holy City, our City of Refuge (Deuteronomy), Place of Peace on earth.
Isaiah 62:1-2 command us to pray for and will that state of peace within ourselves, in our families and in His Church and His whole creation.

Anonymous said...

Oh, so it's a matter of interpretation!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, then I must assume you would be enthusiastic about removing "America the Beautiful" from the hymnal ('82 or '40 - it's in both) for the same reason.

Disgustingly sad whether in England or here.

Care to share your name? Or is hiding your nature?