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.
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.
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.
Today’s Sunday Telegraph carries the following letter:
An English anthem would give us pride without prejudice
SIR – When British athletes win Gold for Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics, God Save the Queen will play to celebrate. However, when it is England who take to the sporting field to play rugby or football, they should be heralded by an English anthem for an English team, just as Flower of Scotland and Land of My Fathers are sung as Scottish and Welsh anthems.
The lack of an English national anthem can lead to complaints about a lack of fair play, while treating the British national anthem as if it belongs to England undermines an equal claim to British identity and the allegiance of other nations within the United Kingdom.
An English anthem would show symbolically that pride in our national identities is no barrier to being proud to be British too. We would like to see an English anthem used when England play France in their first game in this summer’s Euro 2012 football tournament.
This St George’s Day is an ideal moment for the proud and inclusive majority in our country to speak up. It would strengthen the case that the fringe extremists of the English Defence League, who would tear England apart, have no real claim to St George’s flag.
An English anthem for the talented, diverse teams that represent us on the sporting field would help modern patriotic pride to defeat prejudice.
Sunder Katwala Director, British Future
Robert Halfon MP (Con)
David Lammy MP (Labour)
Greg Mulholland MP (Lib Dem)
Rob Berkeley Director, Runnymede Trust
Baroness Berridge (Con)
Phillip Blond Director, ResPublica
Jon Cruddas MP (Lab)
David Goodhart Director, Demos
Paul Goodman Co-editor, ConservativeHome
Sunny Hundal Editor, Liberal Conspiracy
Guy Lodge Associate Director, IPPR
Rachael Jolley Editorial director, British Future
Dr Andrew Mycock Huddersfield University
Prof Tariq Modood Bristol University
Max Wind-Cowie Head of Progressive Conservatism Project, Demos
Gareth Young OurKingdom
The letter is referenced in Jasper Copping’s Telegraph article ‘St George’s flag is a racist symbol says a quarter of the English‘.
The letter is the initiative of the British Future think tank, whose report This Sceptred Isle is released tomorrow, St George’s Day. British Future have created a Facebook page to drive their anthem campaign; you can join it here, but don’t forget to join the anthem4england Facebook page too!
Oliver Wates’ letter in today’s Independent backs up Anthem4England’s view that the use of God Save the Queen as an English anthem undermines Britishness.
Scottish nationalism would not be the force it is today without the perverse decision by the (England) Rugby Football Union to use the British national anthem for the England team (letters, 11, 12, 13, 14 January).
In the 1960s, to be a Scottish Nationalist was the equivalent of declaring your religion as Jedi Knight. No one took them seriously. Scots would be desperate for their team to thrash England at Murrayfield, but at the end of the match they were still as British as the men in white.
Several decades of rugby as a televised spectator sport have changed all that. How can a young Scot who grows up seeing the British national anthem being used to represent the “enemy” team feel fully British? You could not devise a better way to alienate an entire people. It screams, “You are second-class citizens”.
Why on earth did the RFU allow this damaging and illegitimate use of the British anthem? A simple phone call to the effect that HM did not approve of her British anthem being appropriated by just one of the four UK constituents would have settled the matter and we’d all be singing “Jerusalem” instead.
A whole generation of Scots has grown up to think of “Britain” as no more than a vehicle for English arrogance. It didn’t have to be like that.
The irony being that the RFU persist with God Save the Queen out of respect for the Monarchy.
According to the Express, English rose Kate Middleton has defected to Wales:
“William takes a very active interest in Welsh rugby and Kate ended up closely following their fortunes with him during the recent World Cup. She has pretty much been converted into a Wales fan when it comes to rugby.”
Prince Harry is a passionate England fan and Princess Anne follows Scotland. Her daughter Zara Phillips is married to former England captain Mike Tindall.
It’s funny how Scottish Rugby have a Scottish anthem, despite Princess Anne being the Patron of the SRU; Welsh Rugby have a Welsh anthem, even though Queen Elizabeth II is the Patron of the WRU and Prince William is the Vice Royal Patron of the WRU, but; English rugby sings God Save the Queen because “Prince Harry is our vice patron and we think that is the appropriate anthem to use and our member clubs agree“.
That doesn’t explain why the British anthem appropriate for England but not for Scotland and Wales?