[ by Charles Cameron — Blake, Britain, and Blake again — among the angels ]
The irrepressible William Blake can’t keep himself from coloring outside the words:
Okay, here’s the poem as poem — a very curious poem celebrating “arrows of desire” to have made its way into the hymnary of England, its royalty, and the Proms:
And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands 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 Englands green & pleasant Land
I posted the patriotic hymn-version of Blake’s Jerusalem earlier today in It’s not one pole of polarization that’s the problem, as part of a comment on Brexit, very very British.
Happily the United States — whose birthday is tomorrow — didn’t exactly lose ye olde English tradition, as is readily apparent in this rendition — this one by the West Point Cadet Glee Club:
Oops, but England, my England — see what has become of it!
Like every generation since Ahab begat Behab right in the beginning, I fear for our young, even those now middle-aged, I fear for their young.. I fear for the future so fast spiraling out of our past.
Blake himself had a high esteem of his work and purpose. He wrote:
I am more famed in Heaven for my works than I could well conceive. In my Brain are studies & Chambers filled with books & pictures of old, which I wrote & painted in ages of Eternity before my mortal life; & those works are the delight & Study of Archangels.
And he could paint the archangels’ likenesses by memory, too, with angelic felicity:
A tip-of-the-hat here to David Auerbach.
And a shout-out to Michael Horovitz, who published my first poems in book form in his richly Blake-influenced 1969 Penguin anthology, Children of Albion.