Monday, July 24, 2023

A famous hymn: "And did those feet ... ?"

I mentioned recently my satisfaction with the high cultural level of some of the conversations that Zoe initiates with me. She is really quite erudite, a rarity in the women I usually meet. Being a European, she is mainly interested in European literature, particularly Russian literature. Serbs and Russians traditionally think highly of one another. Via a cascade of treaties, it is thinking that once led to a world war, very sadly. I too have a considerable interest in European literature, though mainly German in my case

Zoe did not start to learn English until she was aged 45 so her knowledge of the vast heritage of literature in English is very patchy. That led to another conversation between us yesterday. She had not heard of that much-loved English hymn, "Jerusalem". And what Blake's words in that hymn are about tends to be poorly understood even by most English speakers

I mentioned the hymn in connection with a blog entry I had recently put up. I mainly blog about politics but I do sometimes venture farther afield. My blog entry was aimed at elucidating what Blake's words were all about. There was a recent article on that topic which I thought missed the point. My blog entry is here but perhaps I might reproduce my comments from it below, together with the Delphic words concerned.

I wrote:

"The author below is very learned but seems to be unaware of the British Israel conviction. That conviction was common among the congregation at my old Presbyterian church in Ann st., Brisbane back in the 1960s, though I doubt that it had any sort of official church acceptance.

There are varieties of the conviction but the basic theme is that the British are the true heirs of the Israel of old and that Jesus at some stage visited England in recognition of that. Blake was clearly of that conviction. It was a common conviction in the 19th century. Blake was simply reflecting on his religious convictions in the poem"

The 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! Oh, clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire

I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Til we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land!

A good performance: