68. Jerusalem
Written by William Blake, 1804
Music by C Hubert Parry, 1916
Orchestration by Edward Elgar, 1922
Performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
From the CD Music For The Last Night Of The Proms (Sanctuary Records, UK 2004)



On Jerusalem in England, Part Two



The poem, which was little known during the century which followed its writing, was included in a patriotic anthology of verse published in 1916, a time when morale had begun to decline due to the high number of casualties in the First World War and the perception that there was no end in sight.

Under these circumstances, it seemed to many to define what England was fighting for. Therefore, Robert Bridges, the Poet Laureate asked Parry to put it to music at a Fight for Right campaign meeting in London’s Queen’s Hall. The aims of this organisation were ‘to brace the spirit of the nation that the people of Great Britain, knowing that they are fighting for the best interests of humanity, may refuse any temptation, however insidious, to conclude a premature peace, and may accept with cheerfulness all the sacrifices necessary to bring the war to a satisfactory conclusion.’

- The Concise Oxford Chronology of English Literature, edited by Michael Cox, Oxford University Press, 2004.
Quoted in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/And_did_those_feet_in_ancient_time



Bridges asked Parry to supply the verse with ‘suitable, simple music that an audience could take up and join in’. Originally Parry intended the first verse to be sung by a solo female voice, but this is rare nowadays. The most famous version was orchestrated by Sir Edward Elgar in 1922 for a large orchestra at the Leeds Festival. Upon hearing the orchestral version for the first time, King George V said that he preferred ‘Jerusalem’ over ‘God Save the King’, the National Anthem.

- Tune into Jerusalem’s fighting history, by Christopher Wiltshire, Guardian.co.uk, 8 December 2000



It has been sung at conferences of the British Conservative Party, at the Glee Club of the British Liberal Assembly and by British Liberal Democrats. It is frequently sung as an office or recessional hymn in English cathedrals, churches and chapels on St George’s Day. The hymn is also sung in some churches on Jerusalem Sunday, a day set aside to celebrate the holy city, in Anglican Churches throughout the world and even in some Episcopal Churches in the U.S.

However some vicars in the Church of England, according to the BBC TV programme ‘Jerusalem: An Anthem for England’, have said that the song is not technically a hymn, as it is not a prayer to God (which hymns always are). Consequently, it is not sung in some churches in England.

- Cathedral bans popular hymn Jerusalem, by Sophie Borland, telegraph.co.uk 10 April 2008



William Blake, born 250 years ago on 28 November 1757, is one of Britain’s greatest visual and literary artists. His poetry, paintings and philosophical writings are considered seminal works now but so radical were his thoughts at the time, that many considered him mad. In 1790, Blake moved with his wife Catherine to 13 Hercules Buildings, near Westminster Bridge, in North Lambeth; his ten years spent there were some of the happiest and most productive of his life. ‘Lovely Lambeth’ was a frequent theme in Blake’s poetry and art but currently there is only one lone plaque to remind passers-by that he lived in the borough.

The William Blake Heritage Project, funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund, is a multi-disciplinary initiative run by Southbank Mosaics in partnership with Futures Theatre Company, and Southbank Sinfonia. The Project aims to develop a shared understanding of Blake’s work in the local community, and create a lasting legacy celebrating the life of one of Lambeth’s most famous residents. The Project will culminate with a festival in late November 2008, to coincide with Blake’s birth. Futures Theatre Company and Southbank Sinfonia are working with children and young people, looking at the work Blake produced during his time living in Lambeth.

Futures Theatre Company are using drama techniques to explore poems from Songs of Innocence and Experience; using Blake’s words as the inspiration to experiment with voice, sound and movement. The settings, images and language contained within the poems allow the groups to examine the area’s cultural history.

Southbank Sinfonia is working with young people to create new musical versions of selected poems from Songs of Innocence and Experience; it is known that William Blake composed his own music for these Songs, but no record of this survives. By considering their own musical response to the poems, and re-composing how this music should sound today and how it might have sounded at the time, the children will develop a deeper and lasting understanding of the poetry.

Southbank Mosaics, a not-for-profit community enterprise, enlivens the built environment, transforming dull places with exquisite pieces of durable fine art. It is currently running daily workshops with artists and volunteers to fulfil Blake’s wish to see his work enlarged and on show in public spaces. Participants are invited to help create 24 mosaics and ceramic plaques to be mounted at the Centaur Street Tunnel that leads to the site of Blake’s home in Lambeth, creating a permanent public art piece.

The mosaics will be interspersed with poems mounted on the wall of the viaducts and accompanied by a sound installation of readings of Blake’s poetry. If you’d like more information on Project Blake, please contact project director Matthew Couper at matthew@projectblake.org

William Blake Mosaics, an exhibition created by Southbank Mosaics and local people based on William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, is at the Saison Poetry Library at Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre from Tuesday 22 January until Sunday 30 March 2008. Admission free.

Thursday 13 March 2008, 1pm, The Clore Ballroom

Linked to the exhibition in the Poetry Library, Project Blake is a celebration of this visionary poet and artist. Futures Theatre Company join Southbank Sinfonia and pupils from Friars and Archbishop Sumner Primary Schools for a lively performance, which ends a week of creative musical activity. FREE Thursday 13 March 2008, 1pm.’

- William Blake Mosaics, 22 Jan 2008 to 30 Mar 2008



<   >