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.
William Blake’s short poem, embedded in the preface to his epic poem Milton, over 200 years ago, continues to rouse passions, whether it be at the start of the day’s cricket play, the last night of the Proms, mis-appropriation by the far right or just by those who feel the need for a rousing national anthem. It wasn’t until 1916, when Sir Hubert Parry set the poem to music, that a minor part of one of Blake’s major works took on national status.
Used across the party political spectrum in the early 1900s, as well as by the suffrage movement and the Church of England, the newly retitled Jerusalem went on to become the anthem of English patriotism. But what would Blake, a man previously charged with high treason, make of his poem being used to encourage patriotic fervour?
Join Blake expert, Jason Whittaker, cultural commentator, Boyd Tonkin and poet, Ben Okri, as they discuss the origins and evolution of this much-loved yet increasingly divisive poem. The event will be chaired by the Very Rvd Jerry Lepine and will culminate in a special performance by the Bradford Cathedral Choir.