Who wrote and composed the hymn 'Jerusalem’?

'Jerusalem''s rousing lyrics, opening with the famous line 'And did those feet in ancient time', were written by the poet William Blake in around 1808.


Blake was inspired by the legend of Jesus visiting England, in particular Glastonbury, with relative Joseph of Arimatheia. In 2009 this legend was explored in the documentary 'And Did Those Feet'.

Over a century later in 1916, composer Hubert Parry set the poem to music to raise Britain's morale as life was bleak with World War One raging and casualties mounting.

Today it is often proposed as an alternative national anthem for England instead of 'God Save The King', and is often used to celebrate English achievements in sporting events such the Commonwealth Games.

We named 'Jerusalem’ one of the greatest hymns of all time.

What are the lyrics to 'Jerusalem’?

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 and pleasant land.

Where does the phrase 'Dark Satanic Mills' come from?

Nowadays, we use the phrase 'dark Satanic Mills' to refer to a particular sort of bleak, dehumanising industrial landscape. Blake coined the phrase in his poem 'Jerusalem'. But where did he get this very striking image from?

Blake lived, during the Industrial Revolution, near the Albion Flour Mills in Southwark, London's first major factory. This steam-powered flour mill was able to produce 6,000 bushels of flour per week until its destruction in a fire in 1791.

Those opposed to this vast new factory did indeed refer to it as 'satanic', as if it were something created by the devil.

Where does the phrase 'Chariots of Fire' come from?

The line 'Bring me my Chariot of fire!' ahs its origins in a story from the Bible - from the Second Book of Kings, to be precise. The section, 2 Kings 2:11, describes how the Old Testament prophet Elijah ascends to heaven:

'And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.'

Over time, the phrase 'chariot of fire' came to signify some force coming direct from God. It famously inspired the title of the 1981 film Chariots of Fire. And indeed, the hymn 'Jerusalem' is memorably sung towards the end of that film.

Why is 'Jerusalem' sung at Women's Institute meetings?

The hymn came to be associated with the Women's Institute (WI) because of suffragette Millicent Fawcett. She asked if it could be used for the Women's Sufferage Movement and in 1918 a band of women sung the hymn at a suffrage rally taking place at the Royal Albert Hall.

Then in the early 1920s one of the founders of the WI, and fellow suffragette, Grace Hadow came up with the idea of using the hymn as the WI's anthem. In 1924 it was officially adopted, and has now been sung by WI members for nearly a century...


Find more lyrics to more famous hymns here