I used to frequent Princeton’s Trinity Church years ago, and one powerful reason was their excellent music.
The local Catholic church, alas, played dreadful pseudo-folksy guitar-strumming stuff I would not call music, but Trinity’s music director, Dr. Andrew Shenton, did a magnificent job with the choir, and for a recessional would often play Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor.
It was a revelation, and a feast.
The pastor, Leslie Smith, loved William Blake, and among the beautiful hymns he selected, Jerusalem (you can see it performed in Elgar’s full orchestration at the last royal wedding) stood out. Jerusalem has been called a poem of struggle:
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 & pleasant Land
Anglican Church tradition holds that a young Jesus traveled to England with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a merchant. The Anglicans view Jerusalem as a metaphor for Heaven. So far, so good, but, what about those “dark Satanic Mills”?
What does that phrase mean?
Wikipedia lists several interpretations:
– The mills of the industrial revolution, one of which went up in flames near Blake’s home,
– The church establishment’s doctrine of conformity to the established social order and class system,
rather something more abstract: “the starry Mills of Satan/ Are built beneath the earth and waters of the Mundane Shell…To Mortals thy Mills seem everything, and the Harrow of Shaddai / A scheme of human conduct invisible and incomprehensible”
Much has been written about it, but, as I see it, Jerusalem encapsulates several Western values: a Judeo-Christian tradition, a poem of the Romantic period, stirring use of language, pride in England’s land and heritage, and the individual’s quest for a better spiritual state.
In the 21st Century, Jerusalem has been banned as being too nationalistic. One key word jumps out: banned.
Which brings me back to my question, what about those “dark Satanic Mills”? Should the banning of Jerusalem, and similar acts of political correctness, be considered one of the “dark Satanic Mills” of our times?
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin American politics, news and culture at Fausta’s Blog.