Thought I’d try giving a rock treatment to this poem by English mystic William Blake (published c. 1808). I don’t really know why I thought this would work, but for some reason the idea occurred to me, so here’s the result. Blake’s poem was inspired by a myth that Christ visited England and founded a mission in ancient times—but Blake was writing at a time of great social upheaval, inequality and unrest (guess some things never change!), so he used “Jerusalem” as a metaphor for “Heaven”—a place of universal love and peace. The reference to “Satanic Mills” is usually taken as a swipe at the Capitalists of the Industrial Revolution, many of whom were profiting from child labour. And so Blake was contrasting a past (mythical) Golden Age with an all-too-real grimy present. I’ll paste the poem below:
JERUSALEM (“And Did Those Feet in Ancient Time” by William Blake, c. 1808)
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 & pleasant Land.