Scripture Verse

The mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. 2 Kings 6:17


William Blake

Words: Will­iam Blake, cir­ca 1804 (some sourc­es cre­dit the first two lines to John Mil­ton).

Music: Je­ru­sa­lem (Par­ry) Charles H. H. Par­ry, 1916 (🔊 pdf nwc).

Charles H. H. Parry

Origin of the Hymn

Having be­gun work on his ep­ic poems Mil­ton, a Po­em in Two Books and Je­ru­sa­lem, on mov­ing to Felp­ham, Sus­sex, in 1800, Blake com­plet­ed his Pre­face to Mil­ton in 1804, ap­par­ent­ly while await­ing tri­al in Chi­ches­ter for high trea­son (he moved back to Lon­don af­ter be­ing ac­quit­ted).

Charles Par­ry set Blake’s Pre­face to Mil­ton to mu­sic for a ral­ly of the Fight for the Right move­ment in Queen’s Hall. It be­came more gen­er­al­ly known as Je­ru­sa­lem when Par­ry con­duct­ed it in 1918 at a con­cert to mark the fi­nal stage in the Votes for Wo­men Cam­paign, af­ter which it was adopt­ed by the Na­tio­nal Fed­er­a­tion of Wo­men’s In­sti­tutes (and is still sung at meet­ings of WI Groups all over Bri­tain).

Edward El­gar add­ed an or­ches­tral score to Par­ry’s ra­ther som­ber tune in time for the Leeds Fes­ti­val of 1922, turn­ing it in­to a pop­u­lar na­tion­al hymn which tra­di­tion­al­ly ends the last night of the an­nu­al Sir Hen­ry Wood prom­e­nade con­certs at the Roy­al Al­bert Hall. This work al­so made an ap­pear­ance in the Aca­de­my Award win­ning mo­vie Char­iots of Fire (1981).

The theme is unique­ly Eng­lish, and there is an un­der­tone of 19th Cen­tu­ry pol­i­tics. The lyr­ics may re­fer to folk­lore that says Je­sus vis­it­ed Bri­tain as a teen­ag­er with Jo­seph of Ar­i­ma­thea, who was said to be a dis­tant rel­a­tive and had a stake in Cor­nish tin mines. How­ev­er, there is no hi­stor­ic­al da­ta sup­port­ing this sto­ry.

This hymn was sung at the wed­ding of Bri­tain’s Prince Will­iam and Ca­the­rine Mid­dle­ton in West­min­ster Ab­bey, Lon­don, Ap­ril 29, 2011.


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.