Over the past few days this site has received a huge number of visitors and requests for comment. There have been numerous requests from radio stations in England and abroad to participate in phone-in shows, and requests for quotes and commentary from print and digital media.
One such request received today was from a Turkish agency who asked:
What is the significance of this poem for you?
What does Jerusalem as a city mean for you?
Does your preference for this poem have any relation with the importance given to Jerusalem as a city?
I dashed off a response and then thought that I would share it here because this belief that Jerusalem refers to an actual place seems widespread, even among the English.
The Jerusalem referred to in Blake’s work is a metaphor for a better place (heaven on earth). It does not refer to the Jerusalem in Israel but to a mythical time long ago when people lived in harmony with each other. In the song Jerusalem Blake is suggesting that we build this new Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land. For a full understanding you would need to read Blake’s other works in which he constructs his own mythology around Albion and Jerusalem.
The opening lines refer to the legend that Jesus visited England as a child with Joseph of Arimethea. During Blake’s lifetime this was a popular belief propagated by a group called the ‘British Israelites’ who also believed that the British were one of the lost tribes of Israel. Depending on your perspective you can answer Blake’s Questions with a Yes or a No.
I don’t believe in God, I doubt that Jesus visited England, and I don’t believe that Blake’s Jerusalem ever existed, so my answers would all be No.
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Englands mountains green: No
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen! No
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills? No
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills? No
But the take home message here, for me at least, is that whether or not Jesus visited England, we are blessed with a ‘green and pleasant’ land and should strive to rebuild Jerusalem here. This is a call to human agency – ‘Till we have built Jerusalem’ – rather than an appeal to God’s charity.
The ‘Dark Satanic Mills’ that Blake refers to are most often taken to be the factories and workhouses of the industrial revolution. Some academics believe that they refer to the orthodox churches of the Establishment or to Oxford and Cambridge universities. I like to believe that Blake was referring to all these and also, in a more abstract sense, to the ‘mills of the mind’ – the calculating rationalism that had moved people away from the spirituality that would make a new Jerusalem possible.
In summary the poem/song is a call to make England a better place. The great thing about it, for me, is that it is so open to interpretation. It is full of Christian imagery but many non-Christians love it because they can answer in the negative, and it’s a call to human agency rather than a call to God to save or protect us. And as for the dark satanic mills, today they could be call centres, the Houses of Parliament or social media.
Jerusalem as a city means nothing to me personally, I’m an atheist. Having said that I would very much like to visit because it looks like a fascinating and beautiful place.
Jerusalem is head and shoulders above the other contenders for the crown, in my opinion. Land of Hope and Glory is a fantastic tub-thumping anthem but it is an imperialistic song about making Britain’s empire ‘wider still and wider’, and it includes a direct appeal to God to make us mightier. For those reasons it should be discounted or rewritten. I Vow to Thee my Country is beautiful but it smacks of chauvinism.
But that is just my opinion. If you would like your opinion to appear on this site please follow the instructions on our Facebook post.
A new campaign has been launched today calling for the English Rugby League team to sing an English anthem at the forthcoming Rugby League World Cup 2013. RLWC2013 is the first major international sporting tournament to take place in the UK since the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and will see England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland competing against holders New Zealand, favourites Australia and Fiji, France, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Italy, Cook Islands, USA.
The campaign is supported by Anthem4England, who are campaigning for an English anthem for all England teams, by British Future and by rugby league fans including the Chair of the Parliamentary Rugby League Group, Greg Mulholland MP.
Rugby league fans are being urged to sign the petition, calling on the Rugby Football League to announce that England will use an English anthem, in the same way that the Commonwealth Games correctly uses an English anthem for English athletes, instead of using God Save the Queen – which should be used by UK and British teams, such as at the Olympics and also for occasions in the future when the Rugby League British and Irish Lions come together again. The petition is at http://englishanthemforrlwc2013.com/
During the World Cup, England will compete against both Scotland and Wales who will stand and sing ‘Flower of Scotland’ and ‘Land of My Fathers’ respectively so in the same way that the England team’s shirts proudly bear the English flag, the Cross of St George, they should sing an English anthem rather than using the UK anthem which equally belongs to Scotland and Wales.
Next year, the Commonwealth Games are taking place in Glasgow and the ‘We are England’ team will be correctly using an English anthem, Jerusalem, after this was voted for in a poll before the last Commonwealth Games. See www.weareengland.org.
The campaigners are also writing to Rugby Football League Chief Executive Nigel Wood and Greg Mulholland, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group, has also tabled an Early Day Motion in support of the campaign which can be viewed here: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/391
Commenting Greg Mulholland, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group and Member of Parliament for Leeds North West, said:
“The 2013 Rugby League World Cup will be a great tournament, with the best rugby league nations coming together and in the same way that Scotland and Wales have their own anthem, the England Rugby League team needs one too”.
“As well as being a very fast, exciting sport, rugby league has always been known for being progressive and forward thinking. Now is the time for the Rugby Football League to follow the lead of the Commonwealth Games England and as well a proudly wearing the English colours and waving the English flag, using an English anthem”.
“I hope that we will see England signing an English anthem, not only when they take to the pitch in the first game of RLWC2013 at the Millennium Stadium on 26ht October , but also in the semi finals at Wembley and the final at Old Trafford and hopefully this time lifting the trophy and doing the whole of England proud”.
Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future, said:
“Hosting the Rugby League world Cup offers the RFL a great chance to put their sport in the spotlight by making the switch. As England Captain Kevin Sinfield is due to lead the team out for their first match in Cardiff I am sure the local audience would be pleased to see the English team recognise that being English and being British are not the same thing. There is a growing interest across all sports in having an English anthem when England take the field, with God Save The Queen used for British teams like team GB at the Olympics. Rugby League should take the lead.”
Gareth Young, of Anthem4England, said:
“The use of the British anthem ‘God Save the Queen’ by England, especially when competing against Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, smacks of imperialism. It also denies England its own discrete national identity whilst the Scots and Welsh are denied equal ownership of the British national anthem. The Cross of St George has replaced the British flag at English sporting events; it is now time to replace the British anthem with a distinctly English anthem starting with the Rugby League World Cup. Jerusalem works for me.”
Philip Davies, Conservative Member of Parliament for Shipley, said:
“I believe that it is about time that England had its own national anthem for sporting events when it is competing with the other nations within the UK. God Save the Queen in an anthem for the whole of the UK, and a separate English anthem would recognise this and also allow a greater sense of national pride in being English. I hope that the Rugby League World cup is the first tournament where this happens.”
Petition Co-ordinator Stuart Long added:
“I fully support this campaign for an English anthem to be played when England compete in Rugby League World Cup, as a nation England needs to have a unique voice like other nations of the United Kingdom like Wales & Scotland with a unique anthem.”
England and Wales host the Rugby League World Cup in October 2013.
Greg Mulholland MP has tabled the following EDM to persuade fellow MPs to support his call for the English team to use an English anthem instead of God Save the Queen. Please email your MP and ask them to support EDM 391 “ENGLISH NATIONAL ANTHEM FOR THE RUGBY WORLD CUP”.
That this House welcomes calls for an English anthem to be used by the England Rugby League team at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup which takes place between October and November in venues across England, Wales and France; further believes that the Rugby League World Cup 2013, which is the first major international sporting tournament played on these shores since the inspiring London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, should be the first major sporting tournament where an England team sings an English anthem; notes that the World Cup will see England, Wales and Scotland competing with the Wales team using Land of My Fathers and the Scotland team Flower of Scotland and therefore believes that England should not use the UK anthem, God Save the Queen, that equally belongs to Scotland and Wales, but should use an English anthem instead; calls on the Rugby Football League to announce that England will use an English anthem and perhaps organise a poll of England fans to decide what this should be, or use the anthem chosen for English athletes used at the Commonwealth Games; looks forward to the England Rugby League team taking to the pitch for the opening game of the Rugby League World Cup 2013 at the Millennium Stadium on 26 October and proudly singing an English anthem; and further wishes the best of luck to all the distinct home nation sides participating in the tournament and hopes that they are successful.
Please pop over to change.org to sign English Commonwealth’s petition for a distinctly English national anthem.
The sport governing bodies and associations of England: Adopt an English national anthem
The use of the British national anthem ‘God Save the Queen’ as the English national anthem denies England its own discrete identity whilst the Scots and Welsh are denied equal ownership of the British national anthem. The Cross of St George has replaced the British flag at English sporting events; it is now time to replace the British anthem with a distinctly English anthem.
Given that anthem4england and others have repeatedly warned of the consequences of having the same national anthem for England and Britain, it’s rather amusing to read of the ‘fury’ when non-English Olympians fail to sing God Save the Queen.
Why should they sing something that they regard as the English national anthem (and with some justification); do we ask English Olympians to sing Flower of Scotland or Land of My Fathers?
Rather predictably it was the Daily Mail that was most outraged.
Mail: Fury as Welsh and Scots snub National Anthem: Captain Giggs stayed silent for God Save The Queen
Mail: Team GB out of tune: Stars snub the National Anthem, then let victory slip
The Early Doors blog provides a rational (non-Daily Mail) perspective (my bold):
1-Singing the national anthem is, and always has been, optional.
2-Singing the national anthem is not a barometer of how much you love your country.
3-How much you love your country is not a barometer of how good you are at sport.
4-One of the things that makes Britain semi-decent is the element of personal freedom. Countries that force people to sing national anthems? Not so free.
5-Olympic athletes are sportsmen, not singers. Their focus should be on performance, not fake displays of patriotism for the benefit of the press.
6-In football terms, God Save The Queen is the English anthem, Land Of Our Fathers is the Welsh one. ED can understand Welsh players not singing the anthem associated with England. Not because they hate the Queen, but because it would feel a bit weird.
7-There was no show of disrespect. The players stood to attention, and didn’t in any way muck about.
8-Hardly anyone was offended by the non-sing, and those that were should have their opinions instantly disregarded as moronic.
Anthem4england endorses the sentiments of Early Doors, but with an addendum to point 6 to state that England and Britain should have different national anthems.
Member of Parliament for Leeds North West and long time campaigner for and English national anthem, Greg Mulholland, has today tabled a Parliamentary motion welcoming calls and campaigns for an English national anthem from a number of groups including British Future and Anthem4England.
The motion (EDM 2992) praises the campaigns from groups such as British Future and Anthem4England, as well as supporting a letter signed by Members from across the House, calling for England to have its own national anthem, just as Scotland and Wales do when they compete as individual nations. It calls on the Government, in light of St Georges Day and ahead of Euro 2012, to get behind the campaign for an English national anthem.
“God Save the Queen is the UK national anthem it is absolutely right that this should be played when teams are competing as the United Kingdom.
“It is quite wrong that England use the British national anthem when competing as England rather than as Great Britain, particularly when playing the other home nations who also have God Save the Queen as their British national anthem”
“It is time that England had an anthem it could call its own that we could celebrate whenever an English team or athlete takes to the sporting arena. The run up to Euro 2012 is the ideal opportunity for the Government to speak up for our English identity and get behind the campaign for an English national anthem”
That this House welcomes the calls and campaign for an English national anthem including by British Future and by Anthem4England; supports the letter signed by hon. Members from across the House calling for England to have its own national anthem, just as Scotland and Wales do when they compete as individual nations; believes it quite wrong that England uses the UK national anthem when competing as England rather than as Great Britain or the UK and that this confuses England and Britain/the UK and is damaging to the unity of the UK; notes that an English anthem for the talented and diverse teams that represent us on the sporting field would help modern patriotic pride to defeat prejudice; applauds the British Future campaign and Anthem4England for their work on this issue; adds that St George’s Day, ahead of Euro 2012, is an ideal moment for the Government to speak up for English identity and an English national anthem; and therefore calls on the Government to get behind the campaign for an English national anthem calling on all English sporting associations to adopt an appropriate song that English sportsmen and women and the English public would favour when competing as England.
Please email your MP and ask them to support this EDM.
At anthem4england we’re delighted that the think-tank British Future has begun campaigning for an English anthem.
And we’d be doubly delighted if, as indicated by this letter, The Royal Society of St George are also supportive of the campaign for an English anthem.
We need to have an anthem for England
I WRITE with reference to the article ‘England’s own anthem?’ (The Citizen, April 24).
In a couple of month’s time English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland athletes will form Team Great Britain and compete under the Union Jack in the Olympics. Hopefully, many of these athletes will be successful and stand on the rostrum to receive medals to the strain of God Save the Queen. Following that sporting event, early in the New Year of 2013 English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish rugby players will represent their respective countries in The Six Nations rugby tournament. Before each game the national anthems for each country will be played. It makes little sense that God Save the Queen should be the anthem of choice for England at this tournament, as the Olympics has clearly indicated it is the anthem of Great Britain.
The time has come for England to have a patriotic anthem like the other countries that form the union of Great Britain.
The Royal Society of St George should be supported in their aim to promote an English National Anthem and more importance should be attached to St George’s Day to celebrate all things English.
Name and address supplied
There is nothing on the The Royal Society of St George website about an English anthem so we will write to them for an official statement.
The Sunday Telegraph letters page carries some reaction to last weekend’s call for an English anthem, the most irritating of which was this reactionary letter:
The English have a perfectly good anthem in God Save the Queen and a fine flag in the Union flag. There is simply no need or demand for the English to adopt the flag of St George or a new song.
What is more, there is definitely no reason for this motley assortment of think tankers, academics and lawmakers even to consider how to give the English a chance to “help modern patriotic pride to defeat prejudice” by proposing an anthem and a flag.
The further thoughts of this ‘motley assortment of think tankers, academics and lawmakers’ can be read here.