Friday, April 11, 2008

Every black'ning Church appalls

Getting theological on CiF's bottom:

The news that the hymn Jerusalem has been banned from Southwark Cathedral has inevitably been denounced by conservative churchmen as evidence of the politically correct namby-pambyism of the Anglican establishment. But this rather misses the point. In the past, some clergymen have objected to its supposed nationalist overtones, perhaps thinking of its popularity with the braying yahoos at the Last Night of the Proms. But the objection of the Dean of Southwark, Colin Slee, is more nuanced: he argues that Jerusalem is "not in the glory of God"; essentially that, in Anglican terms at least, it isn't really a hymn.

And, you know what? He's right. Blake never wrote it as a hymn; it's the preface to his long, obscure poem Milton, and it was only when Hubert Parry set it to music in 1916, as an attempt to rally a war-weary public, that it began to be interpreted in the jingoistic terms beloved of the Daily Telegraph.

Further arrows of desire here...


Christopher Campbell-Howes said...

Why, this is absolutely so. But it never took off until a Leeds festival in the early 20s, by which time Parry was dead, in an orchestration by Elgar.

There was fierce controversy over its inclusion in a revised Church of Scotland hymn book (1973), when it was suggested that 'England' ('in England's green and pleasant land') should be changed to 'Scotland', 'Scotia' or even 'Albion'.

I don't know what craven interests forced its eventual inclusion. I've accompanied it at Scottish weddings when Ultra members of the congregation refused to sing it and remained seated while it was being sung.

Good for the Dean of Southwark.

M.A.Peel said...

My only thought about "Jerusalem" is how I confuse it with "I vow to thee."

tony said...

I Think Billy Blake Would Aprove. The Devil really does have all the best tunes...........!

amyonymous said...

you Brits get the most interesting controversies. i had to go look up the Jerusalem poem, not knowing it and having no idea of the song that goes with it. it is rather heavy-handed, just on the page (or really, on the screen). wonderful, but in that way that a club beating you about the head is wonderful - when it stops.

Tim Footman said...

Christopher: In an ideal world, it would become the English national anthem. Wales would get 'Delilah', NI possibly 'Teenage Kicks' and Scotland... dunno. 'Donald, Where's Yer Troosers?', maybe?

Mrs Peel: I once went to the wedding of someone I didn't know, who had both of them as part of the service. I was warned beforehand, "It's not that she's right-wing, as such..."

Hello, Tony. Billy would find the whole thing hilarious, I'm sure, and regale the angels with the story over a pint of nectar.

The tune makes it more digestible, Amy. And, compared to most Anglican hymns, it's blessedly short - indeed the only hymn I know that leaves you wanting more.

Except it's not a hymn, is it?

llewtrah said...

Billy (of the Oye variety) ought to be here. He's hot on the Blake stuff.

Tim Footman said...

Billy's in Peckham, talking to angels (which sounds like a euphemism).

Marsha said...

Scotland... dunno. 'Donald, Where's Yer Troosers?', maybe?

It would have to be something by the Proclaimers, surely? (I can't choose between "500 Miles" and
"I Want to Spend my Life With You". ("Cap In Hand" seems obvious but it's too cringe-worthy for my taste)