William Blake Jerusalem Comprehension

Jerusalem

Introduction

William Blake’s “Jerusalem” refers to the medieval legend that Jesus travelled to England with his father. Published in 1808, the poet criticises the modern corruption of the “dark Satanic mills” and declares he “will not cease” until England regains its heavenly “pleasant pastures” fit for God’s return.

Jerusalem

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.

Comprehension Questions

  1. Whose feet might be referred to in the opening line?
  2. What adjective is used to describe “England’s mountains”?
  3. How are the “pastures” described in the fourth line?
  4. Do these two images give a positive impression of England? Explain your answer.
  5. Who do you think is the “Countenance Divine”?
  6. In the second verse, what adjective is used to describe the “hills”?
  7. What adjective is used to describe the “Mills”?
  8. Do these two images give a negative impression of England? Again, explain your answer.
  9. Suggest why Blake asks the audience questions in the first two stanzas?
  10. What tone is suggested by the repetition of “bring me” and the words that follow.
  11. Are the images in the third stanza glorious?
  12. What does the speaker want to do in the final stanza?
  13. What does the pronoun ‘we’ suggest in the penultimate line?
  14. What is your opinion of the poet’s message?

Performance by Katherine Jenkins

You might already be familiar with Blake’s lyrics because the poem has been interpreted as patriotic and, especially in the Church of England, as a metaphor for Heaven, so it remains very popular. This video is from BBC’s “Songs of Praise” and certainly has an overall triumphant tone.

[eh_optimize_youtube_embed video=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6x_jgWm0QFA”]

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