One of the two congregational songs at yesterday’s wedding was Blakes Jerusalem. It does have a stirring tune and a magnificent reputation but I have always assumed that the simple answer to the questions posed in the first stanza is “no” and, thus, have moved swiftly onto other songs of faith. However, Blake was no fool. Could it have been that “no” is his intended answer?
Jesus’ feet almost certainly did not walk upon the verdant sod of this sceptered isle, Albion (not England, of course, until almost a millennia after his time on earth). Could verse two indicate that the right response is not to look back to an imagined history but to set one’s heart and mind (“I will not cease from mental fight”) to build something more worthy of reflecting Jerusalem in England’s present green and pleasant land?
It is a mysterious poem which has sparked many interpretations but I wonder if this might not be too far off the mark; it certainly fits the kind of thing one can imagine the radical and reformist Blake considering worthy of a lyric.