Thursday, 17 June 2010

Among Those Dark Satanic Mills - And Everywhere Else

Those of England's athletes who are taking part in this years's Commonwealth Games in Delhi chose 'Jerusalem' as the team anthem.

We were delighted. 'Jerusalem' - like the 'Marseillaise!' - is one of those pieces of music that seems to belong to everybody.

The Marseillaise is, of course, very militaristic, but William Blake's constructive and hopeful poem speaks of a Jerusalem of the mind, a place of peace and love that could be anywhere - and never mind that Blake happened to visualise it in 'England's pleasant pastures' and among England's 'dark satanic mills', or that his outlook was (unsurprisingly for those days) that of a Christian man.

Blake's poem is based on what may, or may not, be the myth that, as a young man, Jesus accompanied his Uncle Joseph of Arimathea on a voyage to England, and visited Glastonbury - and hence 'And did those feet in ancient time walk upon England's mountain green?'

It really doesn't matter whether the myth is a myth or the truth. Jesus is a Messiah to some people and a Prophet to a lot of other people - and whilst that difference does matter a great deal to some people, what matters most is that most people agree that he was an extraordinary individual and worth listening to.

And what matters most to us here is that England's athletes chose a piece of music that belongs to everyone and is hopeful and constructive.

'Jerusalem' is a metaphor for a place of peace and love.  Building a new Jerusalem that isn't a place, but a state of mind, is no small ambition.

Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillions,
Marchons, marchons!

But don't bring a gun.


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