“And did those feet in ancient time” by William Blake

Continuing the theme of videopoems that riff on television conventions, here’s a poetry promo from the BBC disguised as a sporting news story from the BBC. The poem is referred to as “Jerusalem,” but it’s actually from the Preface to Milton. A popular hymn adaptation by Hubert Parry a century after Blake wrote it is reponsible for the new title, according to the Wikipedia.

The poem was inspired by the apocryphal story that a young Jesus, accompanied by his uncle Joseph of Arimathea, travelled to the area that is now England and visited Glastonbury. The legend is linked to an idea in the Book of Revelation (3:12 and 21:2) describing a Second Coming, wherein Jesus establishes a new Jerusalem. The Christian church in general, and the English Church in particular, used Jerusalem as a metaphor for Heaven, a place of universal love and peace.

That’s one of those metaphors that would seem to have outlived its relevance, except perhaps in the writing of the late Mahmoud Darwish.


  1. Reply
    Beth 6 July, 2010

    Having sung the Blake/Parry hymn “Jerusalem” many times, it still moves me for some inexplicable reason, and I’m not even that much of an anglophile. It’s certainly the quintessential English hymn, and got a new leap into popular consciousness when it was included in the film “Chariots of Fire” – a line that’s included in the poem and refers back, I think, to Elijah in the OT. Overlapping circles of resonance, in other words, added to now by this pretty fascinating piece from the BBC.

    • Reply
      Dave Bonta 6 July, 2010

      Yeah, I figured that’s where the title of the movie came from — also about sports, as I recall (runnning?).

  2. Reply
    beth 7 July, 2010

    Yep, it’s based on facts about Cambridge runners who compete in the 1924 Olympics. “Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice.” – wikipedia. The hymn is at the end of the film, at a memorial service for one of them. It’s a tear-jerker but won all sorts of awards and is a very good film. I saw it again on a huge outdoor screen a couple of years ago during the Montreal film festival. Clips here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EY6NKM9cC7w&feature=related

  3. Reply
    beth 7 July, 2010

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