“Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.” NKJV
A new anthemfor the redemption of your Jerusalem
Concerning the nicely named “prophetic poet” William Blake, the poet Wordsworth wrote: “There was no doubt that this poor man was mad, but there is something in the madness of this man which interests me more than the sanity of Lord Byron and Walter Scott.”
It was this same William Blake who in his preface to his work entitled“Milton” wrote the following lines, “Jerusalem”.
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.
Over one hundred years after the first penning of this verse, during the ravages of the Great War and its enormous losses, that a search was made for some magnificent verse and music which would continue to instil patriotism and sacrifice into the masses. It was Blake’s preface to his poem “Milton”, that was utilised to continued and great effect. This same verse was later popularised by the music of Sir Edward Elgar and the stirring rendition which he produced has subsequently been widely adopted by various English institutions and even political bodies to be their very own anthem. Indeed, in 1922 in the city of Leeds, King George V himself said that he preferred replacing “God Save the King” with “Jerusalem” as the national anthem! Britain however, though it has never had an official national anthem, refuses to adopt this great and most popular of poems, mostly because it has four questions in the first verse, that must all I am afraid to say, be answered with a very literal no! Nevertheless, it is to those same four questions posed by Blake, which I want to turn our attention to tonight.
This poem by Blake is built upon an ancient legend, that Jesus whilst still a young man came and visited the ancient town of Glastonbury, accompanied by Joseph of Arimathea. This is not an unusual legend for Glastonbury Tor is reputed to lie on the centre of numerous lines of earth energy (lay lines) and has been a mystical and spiritual centre for thousands of years. There is no doubt that geographically, Glastonbury Tor could have once been the ancient and legendary island of Avalon. It is of no surprise then, that Glastonbury is also the focal point for most of the legends regarding King Arthur, Joseph of Arimathea and The Holy Grail. As I write this piece today, Glastonbury, with the fall of Christianity in England, has now become the centre for pagan mysticism in all its far-out and freaky forms. Yes, God help us! Even the spiritual world abhors a vacuum.
Blake’s poem “Jerusalem”, based upon on these same Glastonbury Christian legends, not only mourns the rise of the destructions concerning the dark satanic mills of the industrial revolution ( or, if you like, the Church of England) but also seems to indicate two further things.
First of all, in the first stanza of the poem, Blake gives some acquiescence to his belief in the Glastonbury legends themselves. That is especially, that Jesus visited Glastonbury and established the first church in England right there. You see, in Blake’s mind, I believe those first four questions are answered in the affirmative! Yes! Christ did arrive in England, and yes, Christ did plant Jerusalem, the metaphor for heaven, the metaphor for Zion, the metaphor for the city of the people of God, right here in England. It is total ‘tosh’ of course but I wonder if Blake believed it!
Secondly and much more importantly, is the driving import of Blake’s affirmation to these questions, which is found in the second stanza of the piece. Blake says in effect, “As God himself has begun a good work in us, in our land, and that with a personal visitation, then as we now look around at the ruins of our Christian culture, of our Christian community, of our once magnificent Christian England, we must take up our spiritual weapons and fight to regain these lost lands of Jerusalem!”Blake then goes on to invoke both powerful and prayerful pictures of a great and determined desire, when he calls for heavenly weaponry to help fight a spiritual war right here on earth. Would to God that the remnant of the church of the living God in our time would choose to do the same. Selfish spiritual masturbation is the order of the day rather than selfless exertion.
In all former Christian lands, now lost or losing out to false religions of every kind, these old words of Blake must become our new battle anthem. In all personal battles that are fought within our own heart, our own homes, our own relationships, indeed, in all the regaining of lost ground to that most murderous and thieving enemy of ours, these old words of Blake must become our new and powerful, our new and personal battle anthem.
Jerusalem my friends, must be built again, in all our green and pleasant lands. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
Listen: “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces.’ For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, ‘Peace be within you.’ Because of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.” Psalms 122:6-9 NKJV
Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.
High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.
Translated from an ancient Irish hymn.