The dark Satanic Mills

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The dark Satanic Mills

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,
– Or,

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.

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,
– Or,

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.