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Parry, Jerusalem

Dear Friends,

Here is a compilation of some of the responses to my question about
Parry's "Jerusalem." I want to thank you all for taking the time to
This was my first posting on this list. What an incredible resource!

Parry's "Jerusalem"
Sun, 03 Oct 1999 09:13:37 +0000
Jan Thomas

I have been working on C.H.H. Parry's "Jerusalem" with my high school
choir and wondering about the words to this piece. Does anyone have any
insight into the meaning of the text, esp. the reference to England's
"satanic mills." Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Interesting text isn't it! The first part is highly nationalistic
suggesting that perhaps Jesus visited England when He was on earth. You
no doubt recall the expression "God is an Englishman". Well there you
are. As to "satanic mills" -- this refers to the factories that sprung
up with the industrial era that were horrid, dirty, crowded places of
long hard labor -- and not just for adults but for children as well.
Dickens wrote rather a lot of the evil of these labor mills.

These mills refer to the factories that were the scourge of England
during the years of the industrial revolution.These were places of great
hardship, especially for children These mills and factories were made
even more notorious through the writings of Charles Dickens, whose
novels helped to make child labor and the terrible conditions of the
working poor a major social issue in nineteenth century England. This
poem has a basis in the legend that Joseph of Arimathea, in whose tomb
Christ was buried came to England. There is also some discussion amongst
theologians that Christ may have been in Europe in the years between his
circumcision and the beginnings of his ministry. I am no expert on the
subject by any means but this is the gist of it. The Parry hymn is one
of my very favorite works. I first came across it in the film "Chariots
of Fire" which draws its name from the second stanza of the poem. The
film, for the sake of trivia, was produced by the late Dodi Fayed.

Artistic Director, The Helios Ensemble


Regarding Parry's Jerusalem, read some of the poetry of William Blake,
especially, the Songs of Experience ones, and you can get a pretty good
idea of how the late 18th/early 19th Century England looked to the
sensitive eye. It was not a pretty picture! Plus, check out the English
legend of Joseph of Aramathia(sp.?) regarding the legend of "and did
those feet in ancient times".

Best of luck,

Gary Fisher
Toronto, Ontario

I believe the text centers on the legend that Jesus traveled as a boy
with Joseph of "Aramathea" (I have no idea how to spell that) to that
part of England. My really sad lack of biblical knowledge is showing
here. I remember hearing that Joseph was a tin merchant and Jesus'
uncle. I also believe that "satanic mills" likens the fires in the local
foundries to the fires of hell. Please check this out before quoting me.
George A. Hughes
Chaney High School
Youngstown, Ohio

Dear Jan,
The text of "Jerusalem" is by William Blake (1757-1827), a visonary
romantic poet who constructed his own elaborate mythology to convey his
anarchic, revolutionary ideas about poetry and society. One of these
ideas was that it was possible for man, through the strength of his
imagination alone, to return to the state of Adam and Eve in Paradise
before the fall. Blake and his wife were even known to parade around
naked (presumably only within the confines of their home!!!) pretending
they were the Adam and Eve.
In "Jerusalem," one of his late poems, Blake imagines that in England
itself he could recreate the Holy City in this poetic fashion. Since
Blake lived in the early days of the industrial revolution, however,
there was the smoke and fire of the coal-fired engines of the coke and
iron mills to contend with. Hence the reference to "dark satanic mills."
Hubert Parry's setting, especially when sung by male choir, is a
stirring anthem that your students should enjoy very much, especially
when they know something of the background out of which Blake was
Scott Gillam
Music Librarian, New Amsterdam Singers
Box 373 Cathedral Station
New York, NY 10025
Check out our rental library!


The 'satanic mills' are considered by some as referring to the
exploitative nature of the industrial revolution that gave people
work,but work that was oblivious to worker safety, adequate
compensation, etc.Your students are lucky to be singing that mighty
tune. Which tunearrangement are you singing? Maurice Jacobsen, by any
chance? He was the husband of my piano professor at the University of
Washington decades ago.
Have a good year.

Joan Catoni Conlon Phone: (303) 492-6403
College of Music FAX: (303) 492-5619
18th and Euclid email: conlonj(a)
Campus Box 301
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309-0301

I asked one of my colleagues in English Lit about that a couple years
ago. I can't remember exactly what he said but I do remeber that the
satanic mills are a reference to the textile mills that had sprung up in
the countryside (e.g poor working conditions, unscrupulous owners)

I work with the Vancouver Bach Choir and its Children's Chorus and each
year Bruce Pullan (e-Kings College, Willcocks etc .... himself an M.A.
in English from Oxford!) introduces Jerusalem, which is sung at our
annual Last Night of the Proms.

Apparently, it is not a great song exalting the current glories of
England, but rather the first 'ecological' anthem, despairing of the
damage done by the appearance of the "dark, satanic mills" which were
the products of the industrial revolution ... (cotton mills in
Lancashire etc.) Blake longs for the days when the landscape was pure,
green and unspoiled, as in Jerusalem(?), and vows to work to obliterate
the damage! It is actually a poem of utter sadness and dejection, which
anyone who saw the blight of the factories, smoke, soot and row housing
can easily understand.

Joyce Maguire
British Columbia Choral Federation
Check out our web page

Here are my program notes on that from our concert with Sir David
Willcocks in Spring 1998. This is for research purposes only. If you
wish to use the notes in a program, there is a $50 fee for these short
ones, payable to me at the address below.

Jerusalem (1916)
Charles Hubert Hastings Parry 91848-1918)
Text by William Blake (1757-1827)
arr. by Sir Edward Elgar, 1922

The spectre of World War led to the composition of Jerusalem, one of
England's most enduring songs. Its text is taken from William Blake's
Preface" to his long Milton, a Poem in 2 Books, commonly known as the
Prophetic Books. Writing at the dawn of a new century, circa 1804,
Blake urges the "young men of the new age" to revolt and oppose the
false doctrines in "the Camp, the Court and the University." The poet
implores artists, sculptors and architects to be true to their own
imaginations--"those worlds of eternity in which we shall live forever
in Jesus our Lord." Then follow the celebrated verses beginning "And
did those feet in ancient time." The "dark Satanic Mills" refers to the
famous, automated Albion Mills, built along Blackfriar's Road. The
first great factory in London, it and others rose along England's rivers
in the late 18th century, spawned by the industrial-mechanical
A century later, another English poet, Robert Bridges, asked Sir
Hubert Parry to write "suitable, simple music for Blake's stanzas--music
that an audience could take up and join in"--for a meeting of the "Fight
for Right" movement in the Queen's Hall on March 28, 1916. Not only did
the audience 'take up and join in," but an entire nation adopted parry's
Jerusalem as a virtual second national anthem.
Shortly after World War I, Jerusalem became the official national song
o the Women Voter's movement. Sir Edward Elgar made his opulent
orchestral arrangement heard in this concert for the Leeds Festival in
1922. The song has become widely recognized in the United States
by its association with the motion picture "Chariots of Fire."

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. [NOTE: the ampersand is in the

Best regards,
Margaret Shannon
Program Annotator
Cathedral Choral Society
Washington National Cathedral


My understanding has always been that Jerusalem was based on an old
legend that during the big "blank space" in Christ's life - between
about ages 12 and 30, he visited England. Farfetched, perhaps, but not
beyond the realm of possibility, as ships from the mid east were sailing
beyond Gibralter at the time. "Chariot of fire" refers to 2 Kings
2:11. As for "Satanic mills": show your kids a picture of Manchester,
England during the industrial revolution - skies dark at midday, soot
falling from the sky like snow, and at night the infernal glow of coal
on February 7, 2007 10:00pm
The reference to the Saviour's vist to England is not too far fetched since there was much travel beyond the Straits if Gibraltar and then northwrds on the Atlantic coast. There is some evidence that Joseph not only traded with the tin miners of Cornwall, but was recognised as a frequent visitor. Some older tarditions hold that after the cucifiction, he was so disgusted with the events that culminated in his nephew's death, that he packed up and left to settle in the west of England.
When he eventually arrived to live in England, he was so well respected that he was given a considerable amount of land on which to settle.
Here he lived out the rest of his life together with other members of his family and friends who came with him.

Others contend that during his earthly ministry, Jesus promised to visit other peoples. In John 10:16, during one of his discourses he says:
Other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also must I
bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold,
and one shepeherd.
Why not England - aince it has long, and deep, Christian roots that even pre-date the arrival of the great Saint Augustine.
All quite possible. I have leant never to underestimate - or second guess - the Lord.

John Nicholson Ph.D.
Old Testament Instructor,
Fresno Institute of Religion,
Fresno, California.
on April 11, 2007 10:00pm
I am the producer of an Annual St George's Day concert and can testify to the popularity of this piece with our capacity audience at the prestigous Symphony Hall in Birmingham. It features year on year as a 200+ male voice arrangement accompanied by 40 piece Brass band, piano and great organ. Your young choir might get some inspiration from Lesley Garrett (soprano) who performs it with a tremendous orchestral arrangement on her CD 'The Singer'. As an English student some years ago I learnt of Blake's poetry and how he used it to make his point - some of his work bears better deconstruction than other, especially if young people are involved but without digging too deeply into the work to find hidden meaning, this poem combined with Parry's setting makes it inspirational. I my view, some pieces should be enjoyed for what they are without looking to spoil them looking for deep-seated meanings. Enjoy the song for what it is.