I first learned to appreciate this anthem as a child watching the movie Chariots of Fire with my father. My father was an avid runner in the early 80’s and still continues to run to this day; he also is a devout Christian who seeks to earnestly honor the Sabbath Day. Clearly the movie Chariots of Fire would resonate deeply with him and become a Dixon family classic to be watched over and over. I never heard the anthem Jerusalem in a different context while growing up in Southern California and frankly, I never really understood the lyrics and didn’t bother to investigate.
Consequently I missed the great historical significance of this hymn and the fervent nationalistic overtones that this song has for England as the unofficial English Anthem. To briefly display that context, the following YouTube clips show the anthem being played at Prince William and Kate’s wedding in 2011 and as a part of the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games:
Just recently, I stumbled upon this anthem again, only to be fascinated by the history of the song and the great intellectual content of the lyrics for an historical geographer. The music was written by Parry in 1916 using the lyrics from an 1804 poem by William Blake entitled “And Did Those Feet in Ancient Times.”
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: 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