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Dark satanic mills

By Lorenzo

And did those feet in ancient time.

Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Since Blake’s poem is clearly invoking the legend that Joseph of Arimathea came to Britain — indeed even brought a young Jesus with him on an earlier visit — the popular reading of the “dark Satanic Mills” as being the factories of the early Industrial Revolution does not make a great deal of sense.

The brooding monuments of Britain’s pagan past make more historical sense, particularly as there is even sketch evidence from Blake’s papers.

 This is also the Saturday chit-chat post.

15 Comments

  1. DrPaul
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    If he wrote the poem today he’d be in strife with the Israelis and the Palestinians.

  2. Posted October 20, 2012 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    LE@1 I had heard of the Oxford and Cambridge theory, but was not aware there was any textual evidence for it.

  3. kvd
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    Something that has amused me for a while, and with a legal bent to it. Hard to say which is the best, but maybe “was that a yes or a no?” just edges the rest.

  4. Posted October 20, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    Just discussed this poem over with the Baron and we’re both a bit doubtful over the idea that the poem Jerusalem describes Joseph of Arimethea coming to England… I had always assumed without thinking about it much that it was about Christ coming to England; obviously this is not plausible in a limited historical interpretation, but maybe Blake was either being ambiguous in his intent, or metaphorical in that obscure way he had, or simply meaning that the Holy Spirit came to England following the death and ressurection of Christ. (“Lo, I shall be with you always.”)

  5. Holden Caulfield
    Posted October 20, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    LE

    Sounds like the ancient Greeks idea of the struggle between the rationalism and order of Apollo and the creative chaos of Dionysus.

  6. Posted October 20, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    LE, though I don’t see how it refers to Joseph of Arimethea – as far as I can tell there is no reference to this, but there is a direct reference to Christ (‘And was the holy lamb of God/On England’s pleasant pastures seen”).

    The Oxford/Cambridge theory is interesting!

  7. Posted October 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    The Test Acts kept a lot of talented people out of Oxbridge: John Stuart Mill was another (for atheism), Alexander Pope (for Catholicism), for example. It was the source of a great deal of irritation.

  8. Posted October 21, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Nothing like posting on this blog to expand your knowledge :)

    Had no idea that the Jospeph of Arimathea visit legend was so recent; it seemed classic medieval fanfic to me ;)

    Will have to put it into the same category as horns on Norse (“viking”) helmets.

  9. Posted October 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    LE@13 That makes more sense.

  10. Posted October 22, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Impossible to read the poem in full without singing it in your head. Such powerful music for such a powerful (though very mysterious) poem.

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