Have you heard the rousing hymn “Jerusalem”? It’s based on William Blake’s poem “And did those feet in ancient time,” which incorporates the legend that Jesus visited England in his youth. The poem also displays Blake’s resistance to the Industrial Revolution.
And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands 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 Englands green & pleasant Land.
“And did those feet in ancient time” was published in the preface of Blake’s epic Milton: A Poem. According to The William Blake Archive, “Blake etched forty-five plates for Milton in relief, with some full-page designs in white-line etching, between c. 1804 (the date on the title page) and c. 1811.” The Archive includes scans of four copies of Milton, though the Preface is only present in Copies A and B, both printed c. 1811.
“And did those feet in ancient time” was set to music by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916. It appears that the song became known as “Jerusalem” around 1818. Sir Edward Elgar re-scored the work for a larger orchestra in 1922.
“Jerusalem” has remained popular over the decades as an anthem and hymn, used on such occasions as Women’s Institute meetings, cricket and rugby games, the 2012 Summer Olympics, and the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.
(Did you catch that the title of the classic movie Chariots of Fire was taken from this poem?)