And Did those Feet

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"And did those feet in ancient time" is the verse part of the prose/verse preface of the poem Milton, written and printed by the English poet William Blake in the first decade of the 19th Century. It recalls the legend that the Lord Jesus travelled to England. Jerusalem is used as a metaphor for the kingdom of heaven, and the poem exhorts the audience to fight for a reassertion of God's rule on earth. It is a veiled protest against the conditions spreading throughout this "green and pleasant land" with the growing effects of the Industrial Revolution.

Original Text

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.

The original print edition contains the following line at the end of the verses:

"Would to God that all the Lord's people were prophets." Numbers, xi. ch., 29 v.


"Jerusalem"

The song "Jerusalem" was written to the above text by English composer Hubert Parry during 1915-16, at the suggestion of the Poet Laureate, Robert Bridges, for a meeting of the “Fight to Right” universal suffrage movement, and had its first public performance during the celebrations marking the attainment of voting rights for women in 1918.

It was taken over by the Women’s Institute, and various other groups--cultural and political--and became extremely popular. These days, it enjoys its annual enthusiastic bellow at the “Last Night of the Proms”, and has a unique place in English culture as a sort of unofficial national anthem at sporting contests. (A song, “Fight for Right”, written by Edward Elgar at the same time for the same purpose, and with far more bellicose words, has failed to last the distance.)

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