William Blake

(28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827 / London)

And Did Those Feet In Ancient Time


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.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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  • Ross Shand (5/18/2014 7:37:00 PM)

    If you look at the original, the first Stanzer resolves itself as:
    '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! '
    Though my only source is Wikipedia, the above still seems better. (Report) Reply

  • * Sunprincess * (3/14/2014 10:48:00 PM)

    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? (Report) Reply

  • Thomas Vaughan Jones (2/25/2014 10:00:00 AM)

    Mick Mulvey is on the ball. This poem was part of Blake's Prophetic Books, and was first printed in 1808. Part of a work he committed to John Milton. (Paradise Lost)
    Thomas Anderson was also pretty well correct. Not too sure about his interpetation of the last verse though.

    There was/is a legend that before he began His teachings, Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea (he of garden fame) visited England and pilgrimaged to Glastonbury, a holy place. (See Geoffrey Chaucer...Canterbury Tales)
    The English upper classes of the day held the moral high ground, yet working classes were regarded in very low esteem. What William Blake echoes in this poem is related to the above facts.
    The English Industrial Revolution raised the country to the heights of power, yet those dark satanic mills enslaved other Brits. So what Blake is saying is that these materialistic elements be swept away and a New Jerusalem be established built on higher idylls, and that he would be ready to metaphysically take up the fight himself. This was his mantra throughout the poem.
    This piece was set to music as Jerusalem and is sung at most major British classical music festivals. | (Report) Reply

  • Mick Mulvey (1/30/2014 2:15:00 PM)

    Re: Frederick Hudson's utterly ill-informed and reactionary comment, So far as is known, Blake wrote this c.1804-1808...er...unless they've changed the calendar recently that would be the 19th century then...I guess you owe Gillian an apology (Report) Reply

  • Richard Sullivan (11/21/2013 1:34:00 PM)

    I love the style of that poem was written in, that is, the questions asked in it and it's positive spirit stated in such lines as, I will not from mental fight. Every poem should be written in a similar style. (Report) Reply

  • M. Saleem Akhtar Bodla (12/16/2012 2:56:00 AM)

    It's an account of impatient romantic reformative approach. Mr. Blake is frustrated while witnessing evils produced by so-called industrial revolution. It's, according to Blake, only another way to exploit poor strata of England soil under the cover of churches. Blake as a reformist pining for an ideal world and for this purpose he is ready to fight against the contemporary wiles and vices. (Report) Reply

  • Thomas Anderson (4/15/2012 2:48:00 PM)

    Wow, Fredrick Hudson, rather aggressive condemnation there of an interpretation. Mr Blake would not have been impressed. The beauty of Blake in my opinion is that like great works of art, the meaning of a work changes with the emotion and feeling of the beholder. For example this could be described as Dark and hopelessness but it could also be interpreted as an anthem encouraging people to change the world and Rebuild Jerusalem,
    My personal interpretation is that it is about Revelations.
    First verse details Blake`s belief that Christ ventured to Britain during the lost years of Christ.
    The second being as Gillian mention the Industrial revolution, and how something so holy was consumed by the Dark Satanic mills
    The third is perhaps the most controversial as it could be about the four horsemen of the Apocalypse The bow of burning gold is possibly symbolic of the White horse (the white horse symbolizing Victory) with the Arrows of desire being love of fellow man, in that through love and with being fired by the bow of burning gold, allowing victory to be attained.
    The other two the Spear and Chariot of fire could symbolize further the horsemen. An example would be the Chariot of fire could possibly refer to the incident in the old testament 2 Kings 2.11 with Elijah consulting God. The spear and subsequent Oh clouds, unfold could be the emergence of the horsemen at the time of apocalypse.
    The final verse could use the term Jerusalem for the lamb as nor shall my sword sleep in my hand could be interpreted as war will come until Until we have built Jerusalem in England pleasant land.
    Yes it is rather absurd but somehow I managed an A* arguing for this. (Report) Reply

  • Ralph Mason (3/21/2012 7:20:00 AM)

    My interpretation is that we had Jerusalem and it was lost and now he's going to bring it back with force which is not possible so the poem kind of twists on itself leaving me with a feeling of hopelessness and sadness. I find many of Blakes poems very dark just like this one. But they do makes you think! ! ! (Report) Reply

  • A. Jokerman (3/30/2009 8:13:00 AM)

    I'd agree with Gillian for the most part, but would say that everything in the poem has a metaphorical sense, as well as possibly a litteral one. Blake used physical location to represent spiritual quality or aspect in a large amount of his work. Therefore the English hills are the English people, or people, and the mills represent not only mills, but the mental form of control, system, and renunciation of humanity. The lamb represents Christ, or the active principle necessary to constructing Jerusalem, of the Holy City. The poem ends with Blake's decleration of war, and his will to bring back the Christ, so that the Holy city can be rebuilt in England: Very cool. (Report) Reply

  • Fredrick Hudson (2/23/2009 12:42:00 AM)

    well Gillian its obvious you have no idea what your talking about considering William Blake did not write this in the 19th century so dont try and act so smart. David I agree with you it is about how everyone dances to the same tune and that Jesus's presence should be everywhere no matter how far away it was from where he lived. (Report) Reply

  • Gillian.E. Shaw (3/12/2005 10:51:00 AM)

    This poem was written about the Industrial Revolution that took place duing the early 19th century.
    The first verse asks did Christ visit Britain. This may be metaphorical or literal. There is an old English legend that Christ came to Britain as a boy.
    The poet questions christianity in Britain (2nd verse) and illustrates the point by using the adjective 'satanic' when describing the industrial mills. (In the North of Britain at this time many people; men, women and children, worked in the cotton industry.) This clearly gives the impression that the poet thinks the mills are evil places.
    In the final two verses he poet summons up his faith and reveals he will not rest until there is justice in society.
    This is a beautifully written poem and is sometimes used as a national anthem. (Report) Reply

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