Jerusalem: Hymn of England

Today I played at Beamish Museum in a celebration of the hundredth anniversary of the hymn ‘Jerusalem’. Beyond doubt, it’s worth a blog post. (Side-note: I can’t seem to keep a consistent tone in my writing today. I hope it isn’t horribly noticeable.)

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I’ll begin with its history. Set the scene: 1916. For two long years, war had decimated the youth of Europe. Ypres. Verdun. Loos. Arras.

tynecot

On Thursday I spent half an hour at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium. The number of graves–and the number of those unmarked–…

Poet Laureate Robert Bridges had recently edited an anthology of patriotic verse, and rediscovered in it the sixteen lines which serve as a preface to William Blake’s epic poem ‘Milton’. Though passing unnoticed at publication in 1808 and throughout that century, these lines Bridges now gave to the composer Sir Hubert Parry, requesting that he set them to music.

The tune was written, arranged, printed, sung at a campaign meeting by various choral societies of London. The women’s suffrage movement took it up, as did public schools such as Elizabeth College in Guernsey—they speak of it with more ardour than most teenage boys display towards anything (with the possible exception of FIFA). The famous composer Edward Elgar wrote his own orchestration, and so its popularity soared, and became a symbol of English morale.

battlefront1916

The Western Front 1916

In 1918, the war ended—and Parry passed away. Since then, Jerusalem has been used by all the major political parties, adopted as the anthem of the Women’s Institute, rugby teams, the hymn book, and the Proms.

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I’ve found so many articles about Jerusalem that are focussed almost entirely on Sir Hubert Parry. In the first place, it seems counterproductive to esteem a composer for a single work. I, for one, know none of his earlier music, but since he died two years after Jerusalem became the Georgian equivalent of a number one hit, it rather eclipses the entirety of his previous career. In the second instance, I find it far more interesting to discuss the words of Jerusalem, chiefly because they’re steeped in controversy.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountain 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 those 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.

The most common interpretation is a religious one. Firstly, it’s important to understand that Jerusalem is a standard metaphor for Heaven in Church of England jargon. This is explored in the two verses: the first Jerusalem, and the second Jerusalem.

The four questions in the first verse are a speculation drawing upon an apocryphal story, in which Jesus visits England during his early years. It follows that if this visit happened, Jesus would have ‘brought’ Heaven to England, representing the first Jerusalem.

Progressing to the second verse, it’s easy to derive parallels from the Book of Revelation. Revelation tells of the glorious second coming of Jesus, just as Blake writes of a new Jerusalem taking root in England.

14.81.1

Angel of the Revelation: Blake was also one of the leading visual artists of the Romantic era.

But was it so idealistic as it sounds? ‘Dark satanic mills’ is often attributed to the Industrial Revolution sweeping England inside out—but, more deeply than that, Blake is attacking the bondage of institutions, organised religion, education, and the corruption inherent in Victorian society.

Does that negate any religious intent? Blake was committed to social change, and he held staunch revolutionary views for which he was at one point charged with treason. But though intensely religious, the real irony lies in the usage of his words, rather than their interpreted meaning: originally defaming the ‘institutions of repression’, his poem has become a symbol of national solidarity and patriotism. It appeals somewhat to the English humour.

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Nevertheless, I believe something of Blake’s original intention is yet preserved. The bourgeois generals sending thousands of men to their death in the Great War are analogous to the social shackles of Blake’s Victorian England. Today, the bonds of capitalism and social class loom still on the minds of the English people.

When I watch the crowds of tourists filtering through Beamish Museum stop by the bandstand and pour their voices into the hymn, knowing the words as if writ on their hearts, singing of the Lamb of God though many may be atheists, and ‘England’s pleasant pastures’ though they won’t admit their patriotism even to themselves, I can’t help but think that this song has touched them. Its stirring words, its iconic tune: no wonder they’re trying to make it our national anthem. ‘God Save the Queen’, as MP Toby Perkins argued earlier this year, is the anthem of Britain, but as of now, the country of England has none to officially call our own. None but this one.

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If you want to read more about Blake and Jerusalem, here’s a great article.

 

Images:

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God is Maths!

1 + 1 = 2

Right?

Prove it.

What does true matter consist of? What is the real component of matter?

Atoms.

Prove it.

And don’t get microscopic on me, because who’s to say the stuff you can see under a microscope is really what’s there? You rely on your sensory experience. But how can you be assured of anything, anything except the contents of your own mind at the present moment? Maybe you just popped into existence a few seconds ago, complete with memories, knowledge and theories.

Surely I couldn’t dream all this up myself, you say.

Well, prove you didn’t. And don’t try using your senses to do that. That would be working upon the very assumption you’re attempting to prove. Total nonsense!

Atoms, again. It’s logical, you say.

Logical, eh? And tell me exactly why the things you observe correspond to your own ideas of theoretical explanations for those very observations.

1 + 1 = 2

I won’t ask you to prove it. Numbers are abstract. And if you held up one finger on one hand and one on the other, and counted two, I’d ask you how you knew your fingers existed, how you knew you were holding up two of them.

1 + 1 = 2

Everyone in their sane mind agrees. Not because they see it, but because it’s the assumption they must make in order to believe in every mathematical process in ‘existence’. Maths is there. You can’t prove it, but it doesn’t go away. It always has been, and always will be.

We say 1 + 1 = 2, and if we didn’t, everything we’d built upon that one assumption would fall through.

God is an axiom, should you choose to believe it.

I am a mathematician. I build my future on earth upon 1 + 1 = 2, and my future in Heaven upon my belief in God.

INFJs and Physical Awareness

(There’s tons more I could add, and probably scientific studies of NF types and such evidence, but this post has piddled around half-finished in My Documents for over a month as it is.)

People give me funny looks when I mention it, but I honestly enjoy the feeling of mild pain. Not pain like breaking your elbow, which excludes everything around you except that one huge frightening hurt. Just a small discomfort, such as a throbbing vein, or a paper-cut between two fingers, or a bruised muscle—something you know can’t harm you, but nags you all the same.

It’s often intrigued me why I should feel this way. I used to think it encouraged me to think stoically, as my father always taught me (definition 2, as below). But even though he suffers hay fever, he claims he doesn’t believe in allergies. He disbelieves in his own condition.

Sto·i·cism

noun

1. a systematic philosophy, dating from around 300 BC, that held the principles of logical thought to reflect a cosmic reason instantiated in nature.
2. (lowercase) conduct conforming to the precepts of the Stoics, as repression of emotion and indifference to pleasure or pain.

 

Another thought was that I’m a sensation-seeker. Not an attention-seeker in the sense that I constantly desire notice (though possible I do, that, too), but someone who would ‘love’ to be the creator of a grand drama with shocking results. Just out of interest for the effects (though in truth, effects of any sort would threaten my security, and ultimately I never end up doing anything that could endanger my comfort).

But what I’ve hit upon lately, due to my interest for MBTI, is that perhaps pain gives me the physical awareness I don’t naturally have. Just last week, it was half past seven in the evening before I’d realised I’d had nothing to eat since the previous day. I’d been alone for over twelve hours, so no one had forced me to eat, as they usually would. The thought of food just hadn’t crossed my mind. I get lost in the sensation, and practical remedy doesn’t occur to me. But the hunger was there, goading me, spurring me on to a greater and more productive day than I might have spent.

It provides a link to the real world: the permission to go off into my fantasy. It says, “your body hurts, but you can deal with it!”, to return to the idea of self-denial often associated with Stoicism. But it’s not even the defiance in the face of pain that I like(!), but the connection it gives me to my body. It harnesses me where it might be dangerous to give full reign to my imagination. Yet in the partial ignoring of the sensation, my imagination feels as if it has been declared ruler. It has not, for corporeal awareness shackles it to reality, but…well, does anyone understand?

Plato. Creepy guy, 'en't 'e?

Plato. Creepy guy, ‘en’t ‘e?

Food and sleep: if we had neither, there would be so much time and freedom to follow our dreams and fulfil our desires. But what are we without our bodies? For someone who would live exclusively in the realm of souls (not to imply that Plato has won my heart, despite how I came up with a similar dualistic theory when I was seven), this is quite a concession.

But I would not be without my body. In The Matrix, the mind cannot live without the body, nor the body without the mind. No, I am for balance and connection, for harmony; though in my world, physicality strives for precedence against imagination, and vice versa. The mutual struggle is what keeps me safe, what keeps me breathing.

Neo awakes from The Matrix and discovers that while his mind has been living a computer-simulated life, his body has remained in this capsule producing energy to run the computers which took over the world several centuries ago.

Neo awakes from The Matrix and discovers that while his mind has been living a computer-simulated life, his body has remained in this capsule producing energy to run the computers which took over the world several centuries ago.

Body and mind, Catholics say. The soul goes immediately to Heaven; but on the Last Day, the Judgement Day, we profess every week in our Creed, the body will be resurrected, too, and, reunited with the soul, the whole will be judged for the last time: Heaven or Hell for all eternity. We can elude neither part of us, to whatever extent we can use either or link them both.

resurrectionofthebody

“I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting” – Nicene Creed

To sum up, being a writer and an INFJ, who lives so much in the subconscious mind she has difficulty in communicating not only to others, but to her own consciousness, I’d gladly give up my body and live solely in the spirit. But since that is impossible, in this world, which is my own till death takes it from me, I must have some link to my own physicality that keeps me aware of the changes of day to night, and enough in the present world to keep my body functioning sufficiently to allow my subconscious mind to work to best effect.

As Captain Jack would say, “Savvy?”

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http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/stoicism?s=t

Plato – http://www.departments.bucknell.edu/history/carnegie/plato/plato_bust.jpg

The Matrix – https://lillianmwoodall.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/76ec4-matrix-pod.jpg

“I believe…” – http://principiumunitatis.blogspot.com/2008/11/resurrection-of-body.html_

I Just Received a Letter From Myself

I just received a letter from myself.

I just received a letter from myself!

At the end of September last year I attended Celebrate, a Catholic conference held in various places about the country every year. It was one of the best decisions of my life.

The previous March my wonderful youth group went to Flame, a massive Catholic youth event in Wembley Arena. It was incredible! The singing and dancing…miraculous testimonies…God and the Olympics…drama, a glee flash mob, appearances from David Wells, Jason Gardener and Fr Timothy Radcliffe, among many others…and the silence! I’ll bet Wembley has never before seen eight thousand teenage Catholics joined in silent prayer.

flamelogo2012

(My youth group was inspired by this to hold a long service of singing and silence every three or four months. We market it as ‘loud praise and silent adoration’—and we’ve kept it up ever since. There’s nothing like it for restoring passion to faith.)

I’ll never forget the comment Alex posted on my Protagonize profile two days after the event: ‘…the sign. ‘8000+ people; who have you met before?’ Me: umm…this looks like nobody. In retrospect: Bazzzz!!’ (Baz being another of my internet names.) She was sitting in the block behind mine. No; we didn’t run into one another—heck, we’d only met over the internet!—but the marvel is there.

We were so pumped after this experience (though the hotel in which we stayed in Piccadilly was recently closed down for its atrocious quality!) my youth group determined we’d go away together more often.

The epic praise-song singalong! And this photo was taken from halfway down the arena!

The epic praise-song sing-along! And this photo was taken from halfway down the arena!

So in September last year we went to Celebrate. And that was completely different. Kind of like a summer school sort of thing, because we overran the top floor of a school building and did all sorts of awesome things linked to God, and had Mass both days, but we actually got to talk to the other people there.

It was much smaller than Flame—only twenty or thirty people in our age-group (Years7-10). Yes; I was too old for it, but the two girls I’m most friendly with in my youth group are younger than me (though rather more spiritually mature, I might add!). So I made some wonderful and gorgeous friends, Catholics like myself, who go to Celebrate every year and only meet one another then. So strange—but so lovely!

One of the activities we did there was writing letters to ourselves, which they promised to send us sometime in the next year. I’m not sure how seriously I took it; I don’t even remember writing the letter, not to mention expecting it back.

But this morning I received two letters. One a birthday card…and the other an envelope addressed to me in a green felt-tip pen, in my own handwriting!

I wondered if I’d sent one of my cousins an envelope with my address on it. But when I ripped the back off and slid out the letter, that, too, was penned in the green felt-tip, and in my writing. Eesh, I thought, this person is good at imitation.

‘Dear Lillie’, it began, and so I read.

The flyer for this year.

The flyer for this year.

It was my work without a doubt. The phrasing, the imagery…and the letter-writer knew things about me that I’ve never dared tell anyone. I mean the writing was flowery and awful, but still.

I expect I scribbled whatever first came to mind and just shoved it in the envelope as soon as I’d signed it ‘Yourself’ at the bottom.

But every single line I wrote is exactly what I need right now. ‘Can’t I implore you to remain adamant in all you love and believe in now? Keep love as your stimulus, Jesus your nucleus. Be good and patient so that Jesus can be seen in your soul—through you!—yes, you’re worthy when he’s shining inside you.’

I won’t give you any more; the letter is, after all, addressed to me, and is accordingly very personal. But how can I express what this means to me?

Was I wiser last September than I am now, to write such things that would help me in months to come? I may claim I’ve existed in the same way these past three years, but there’s no doubt I’ve changed. We’re constantly processing fresh and powerful emotions, and as we do we forget the old mantras. There are some which may stay with me forever; others fade.

As me ten months ago tells me now, ‘old wounds don’t hurt forever’. Since I’ve no experience of forever, I can’t vouch for that, but to be sure, some things grow less as we learn to forgive those who perpetrated them—myself included. My letter tells me to forgive myself. And today, that’s what I’m going to do.

Flame logo: https://lillianmwoodall.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/7646a-flame.jpg

Flame in action: http://www.priorparkcollege.com/newsimages/560/image2/600_510-(small).jpg

Celebrate poster 2013: http://www.celebrateconference.org/i/button_poster_southampton_2013.gif