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MP calls for fresh debate over ‘English anthem’



Image caption The English team is in South Africa and some say they need an English anthem

Parliament should debate the case for an “English national anthem” that fans can sing at sporting events like the World Cup, a Lib Dem MP has said.

Greg Mulholland said it was “frustrating” to hear fans sing God Save The Queen in South Africa as it was the anthem for the United Kingdom.

He told MPs there should be a “properly established” anthem for English teams.

For the first time, Jerusalem will be played to celebrate English winners at this year’s Commonwealth Games.

The anthem was chosen for medal ceremonies at the event in Delhi – ahead of the God Save The Queen and Land of Hope and Glory – after a public vote backed by Commonwealth Games England.

Historic decision

Mr Mulholland raised the issue during Business Questions in Parliament, where the government sets out future business for the weeks ahead and MPs can call for debates on chosen subjects.

He has raised the issue before, claiming that English fans are at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts in Wales and Scotland.

While Wales has its own national anthem, Scottish football and rugby fans have sung the unofficial Flower of Scotland since the 1990s and this was chosen for the Scottish team at the Commonwealth Games following a similar public vote.

Mr Mulholland told MPs “it was wonderful to see the Cross of St George flying” after England’s victory over Slovenia, which booked the team’s place in the last 16 of the competition.

But he added: “However, it is still frustrating to see England singing the wrong anthem, the anthem of the United Kingdom.

“Following the historic decision to use Jerusalem at the Commonwealth Games, can we now have a debate about properly establishing an English national anthem for when England compete as opposed to the UK.”

In response, Leader of the House of Commons Sir George Young said he had raised an “important issue”.

Decisions on which anthems should be played are taken by national sporting associations.

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“England’s green and pleasant land”


 March 28, 2015

“England’s green and pleasant land”

Sir Hubert Parry (1848-1918)-8x6
If you’re not British, you may only be vaguely aware of the song “Jerusalem.” But the tune and lyrics are very familiar to the people of England.

It is England’s unofficial national anthem, like “God Bless America” is in the United States.

Some Brits have urged that “Jerusalem” be made the official national anthem of England.

The song was first performed on March 28, 1916, during World War I, at a patriotic “Fight for Right” concert at Queen’s Hall in London.

Its melody was composed that year by Sir Hubert Parry, one of England’s most famous composers.

The lyrics are more than a century older than the music.

They come from the preface English poet and artist William Blake wrote for his epic poem Milton, which was first published in late 1810 or early 1811.

The first two paragraphs of Blake’s preface are an obtuse rant that criticizes, among other things, the “Hirelings in the Camp, the Court, & the University: who would if they could for ever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal War.”

William Blake with Milton illustration-8x6

The second part of the preface, written in verse, are the words used as the lyrics for the song “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.”

The first and last lines of the song are widely known and often quoted, as is the phrase “dark satanic mills” — a poetic expression of Blake’s opinion about the smoke-belching, labor-abusing factories of the Industrial Revolution.

The song also helped popularize the phrase “chariot of fire”, which Blake took from the King James Version of the Bible.

The idea of using Blake’s verses from the preface to Milton as song lyrics was suggested to Parry by English Poet Laureate Robert Seymour Bridges.

Bridges envisioned the song as a moving piece of musical propaganda, part of the patriotic, pro-war “Fight for Right” movement designed to help revive public support for Britain’s involvement in World War I.

Hubert Parry had a somewhat different vision for how his song would be remembered.

His wife, Elizabeth, was involved in the women’s suffrage movement and he strongly supported giving women the right to vote.

With Hubert’s blessing, the song was adopted as an inspirational anthem by British women’s suffrage groups, who won their fight for women’s voting rights in 1918.

On March 13, 1918, Parry staged a highly visible performance of his song at London’s Albert Hall to celebrate the culmination of the “Votes for Women” campaign.

Later, “Jerusalem” became a general, patriotic British anthem.

And, although it is not technically a Christian hymn, it is often sung as one at many churches in England.

For decades, “Jerusalem” has also been sung by audiences at the end of the “Last Night of the Proms,” the final concert in the series of annual “Henry Wood Promenade Concerts” presented by the BBC.

The song is also frequently sung at cricket and rugby games, like the “Star-Spangled Banner” is sung at American baseball games.

In recent years it has become popular with environmentalists for the lyrics invoking the ideal of a “green and pleasant land.”

It’s also said to have been a favorite of an earlier brand of nature lovers in the so-called “Naturist Movement” (i.e., nudists), due to a legend that a visitor to William Blake’s home once found him and his wife sunning themselves nude in their garden.

Hundreds of recordings of “Jerusalem” have been made over the decades. Many have been posted on YouTube.

My personal favorite is the version by Billy Bragg, on his 1990 album, The Internationale

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Geographic Imagination in the English Anthem ‘Jerusalem’


I first learned to appreciate this anthem as a child watching the movie Chariots of Fire with my father.  My father was an avid runner in the early 80’s and still continues to run to this day; he also is a devout Christian who seeks to earnestly honor the Sabbath Day.  Clearly the movie Chariots of Fire would resonate deeply with him and become a Dixon family classic to be watched over and over.  I never heard the anthem Jerusalem in a different context while growing up in Southern California and frankly, I never really understood the lyrics and didn’t bother to investigate.

Consequently I missed the great historical significance of this hymn and the fervent nationalistic overtones that this song has for England as the unofficial English Anthem.  To briefly display that context, the following YouTube clips show the anthem being played at Prince William and Kate’s wedding in 2011 and as a part of the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games:

Just recently, I stumbled upon this anthem again, only to be fascinated by the history of the song and the great intellectual content of the lyrics for an historical geographer.  The music was written by Parry in 1916 using the lyrics from an 1804 poem by William Blake entitled “And Did Those Feet in Ancient Times.”

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 those 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

The lyrics are obvious rich in religious overtones, alluding to an apocryphal legend of Jesus visiting England as a youth that was immensely popular in England centuries ago.  Some even believe that every medieval city in Europe was planned as a mini model of Jerusalem.  Although there are many fascinating angles, I would like to discuss just a few of the geographical imaginations embedding in this poem/anthem: the symbolic usage of Jerusalem and natural landscapes as metaphors of holiness and moral purity.


This map that exaggerates vertical changes is one of my favorites of the area around Jerusalem.  The topography of this area is deeply embedded into some religious metaphors.  The Dead Sea rift valley (in parts 1000 feet below sea level) is a symbol for moral decay, and separation from God, where Jerusalem on the high ground (over 2500 feet), is a symbol for Heaven and communion with God.


The New Testament story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30) draws heavily on this topographic reality to convey spiritual significance.  “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.”  The road from Jerusalem to Jericho given the massive elevation change and the local topography takes on added significance and I’ll offer two possible interpretations:  1) Leaving Heaven at birth, all people are thrown into a moral existence away from the presence of God and spiritually are battered and bruised and are helped along the way.  2) The man traveling the road represents anyone who has spiritually strayed and consequently is smitten by the unfortunate consequences of his actions but who can be resuscitated with help.  I share this Biblical passage to highlight the literary symbolism that Jerusalem evokes for those that draw upon Judeo-Christian traditions: Jerusalem is analogous to Heaven.


The questions about a possible visit by Christ to England are all rhetorical and there is no call to action until the possible presence of the Savior is juxtaposed with the “Satanic Mills.”  There are many theories as to what these Satanic Mills may be, but given that it words were first penned in the early 1800s, it is safe to venture that that the author saw some of the negative effects of the Industrial Revolution and saw some analogies between the technological advances that transformed England with spiritual digression and moral decay as a poor urban underclass swelled in the factories and mills.  Just like Jerusalem, pristine natural landscapes are another dominant metaphor in this anthem; pre-industrial landscapes are aligned with holiness and purity; an moral normative landscape.  The Satanic Mills pollute the “pleasant pastures” and “clouded hills” of England, despoiling the innate goodness of the land and people.  Just as Adam and Eve fell from the Garden of Eden (a lush natural landscape of verdant beauty), England’s pastures and hills are threatened by the mills and factories.


So why did this song resonate so strongly in 1916?  The British support for the Great War was waning, and the poem was put to music specifically to rally the English to sacrifice more, and to feel an even stronger connection to country.  The memory of past greatness, in in the case of Jerusalem, to allusion to potential divinity, heightens the importance of place.  Heritage tourism evokes past events of a place as a rationale for preserving, maintaining and defending a particular historical legacy and narrative, as does this rousing national anthem/hymn.

The idea that Jesus could possibly have been in England during his mortal ministry fascinated nationalistic English Christians of the 18th and 19th centuries and the appeal of this song is in part a reverberation of that fascination.  Even if it was a slim possibility, the song speaks of a yearning for it to be true, since the England that they cherish would become all the more spiritually important; Christ’s presence would have sanctified England just as it made the city of Jerusalem holy.  Heritage tourism hinges on having visitors connect the importance of past events with current places.  This imaged divine past is but one reason why the anthem Jerusalem is so captivating.

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England in my heart – God save the queen is not popular


Half of young people don’t know the national anthem

England Football

by Will Dahlgreen @willdahlgreen on June 5, 2014, 4:57 p.m.

43% of 18-24 year old Britons don’t know the first verse of the British national anthem and a further 13% are unsure if they do – while 28% have never sung it in their lives

England football manager Roy Hodgeson has told his players that all of them must sing the national anthem at this year’s World Cup in Brazil. Noting the patriotism of other teams, he said: “You very rarely play against opponents and they haven’t got their hands on their hearts and singing their anthem as loud as they can… We made the decision very early on to do what every other team does”.

While most people support the idea (64%), a new YouGov survey asks people whether they could actually do it themselves.

Overall, 68% say they know the first verse of the British national anthem off by heart while 26% do not and 5% are unsure. Younger British people, however, are considerably less patriotic when it comes to God Save the Queen. While 89% of over-60s could recite the first verse, only 44% of 18-24s could – as many as could not (43%). Additionally, 13% of the younger generation are unsure if they know the first verse of the anthem while only 1% of 60 pluses don’t know.


The more conservative parties also seem to have better patriotic credentials, with 82% of Conservative Party voters and 85% of UKIP voters knowing the first verse. By contrast, 66% of Labour and Liberal Democrat voters could recite it.

Asked when the last time they sung the national anthem was, 86% of the oldest generation choose some point between ‘in the last month’ and ‘more than a few years ago’, while only 4% choose ‘never’. But for the youngest generation, only 52% say they have sung God Save the Queen at some point in their lives while over a quarter (28%) say they never have.


Wayne Rooney didn’t sing the national anthem at the beginning of his football career, and Gary Neville, now an England coach, refused to join in for all 85 England appearances. Roy Hodgeson said: “We are proud to be England players, and in my case, England manager, so when the National Anthem comes up it’s an obvious one for me that we sing it. We’re great until the second verse comes along because we don’t really know that”.

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Why was Jerusalem chosen as the WI’s anthem? 


The decision to choose Jerusalem came as a result of a letter to Home and Country, the December prior to the 8th AGM, from Vice Chairman Grace Hadow suggesting its use. Members wrote in favour of this suggestion.

The letter headed An Institute son, by Grace Hadow:I have recently been at Exhibitions or Council meetings at which the whole assembly has joined in singing Sir Hubert parry’s setting of Blake’s Jerusalem.

Many WI members have said how much they would like to sing it at our Annual Meeting in London, and I write to urge that WIs or County Federations which approve of this suggestion might write to Headquarters and ask if this could be arranged.

It should be clearly understood that when a WI makes this request it pledges itself to learn words and tune by heart. The attempt cannot be a success unless every delegate is ready to sing whether she thinks she can sing or whether she thinks she can’t.

Both words and music are simple and dignified and easy to learn. Incidentally the learning would give pleasure to any WI and would afford an excellent opportunity for a short talk either on Blake’s poetry, or on poems about England.We have long looked in vain for a national ‘Institute Song’.

Here is one made to our hand and one which some counties have already adopted.Yours truly,Grace E. HadowA Mr Leslie of Llansantffraid, an amateur musician, persuaded Sir Walford Davies, a personal friend and composer, to make a special arrangement for string orchestra for the 8th AGM, which he himself conducted the singing, bringing a choir from local WIs with him to lead.

In the 1920s, many WIs were forming choirs and seeking help and advice. The Shropshire Federation was the first to form a music sub-committee and they invited Mr W H Leslie to advise them.So successful was this that Mr Leslie was invited by the NFWI to conduct singing schools in the county federations round the country and also to write articles about choirs and music for WI Home and Country.As mentioned earlier, Mr Leslie, of Llansantffraid on the Shropshire-Montgomery border, was a personal friend of the composer Sir Walford Davies, and was himself deeply involved in amateur music.

The first WI Choral Competition was held in Sussex in 1923, and very soon other federations followed.

The first one-day school for village conductors was held in London in early 1924 with Mr Leslie in charge. All went back to their federations pledged to help to train other conductors and there was a great need for suitable music for these choirs to sing.

With Mr Leslie’s help, the NFWI brought out the first Women’s Institute Song Book – a collection of songs particularly suitable for singing at monthly meetings.

Jerusalem was sung at the AGM, but at this point it had not been adopted as the official song. Lady Denman recalled that the NFWI ran a competition for an ‘Institute song’, hoping that it might produce a good but unknown poet.

Many poems were sent in but nothing suitable was found; it was after receiving a verse that began, ‘We are a band of earnest women’ that Grace Hadow, the Vice-chairman, suggested that Jerusalem should become the WI song.

Jerusalem had been used by the National Union of Suffrage Societies in the 1918 celebrations of women’s enfranchisement, and many of the leaders of the NFWI, including Grace Hadow, had been part of that struggle to win the vote for women.

Millicent Fawcett, the leader of the suffragists, wrote to Hubert Parry, ‘Your Jerusalem ought to be made the women voters’ hymn’, which of course in a way it was, being adopted by the WI. – See more at: http://www.thewi.org.uk/faqs/why-was-jerusalem-chosen-as-the-wis-anthem#sthash.UgozL1ER.dpuf

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St George’s Day: Check Out England’s Unofficial National Anthem – Jerusalem – Two Great Videos and the Lyrics


 St George’s Day: Check Out England’s Unofficial National Anthem – Jerusalem – Two Great Videos and the Lyrics

April 23, 2014 By Jonathan

jerusalem peom

The poem Jerusalem, written by William Blake, is often considered the unofficial national anthem for England. It was set to words by the composer Sir Hubert Parry in 1916 (pictured above) and it has cemented itself and one of the great songs about England. It’s stirring, emotional and evokes a certain feeling about England that is quite appropriate for St George’s Day.

So, we’ve dug up two versions worth listening to from YouTube.

The first is the stirring rendition from the Royal Wedding in 2011. Now, I was there for this – well not at the wedding but outside Buckingham Palace where they played the service on loudspeakers and when the whole crowd – hundreds of thousands of people – began to sing the song, I was moved beyond words and I’m not even English! It almost brings a tear to my eye to hear it today.

The second is a rendition but a YouTube user that took many pictures of England and put them in a lovely sideshow set to a nice choral version of the song.

Here are the words if you would like to sing along:

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

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The Saturday Soap Box: We have to make Jerusalem England’s national anthem


Published: 17/09/2005   by: Daily Mirror newspaper (UK), article by Billy, 17 September, 2005

Welcome to our new weekly column where guests sound off on a current issue. Today, it’s songwriter Billy Bragg…
Watching the crowd in Trafalgar Square celebrating the Ashes win, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how quickly the flag of St George has replaced the Union Jack in the affections of England fans.

A generation ago, England games looked a lot like Last Night of the Proms, with the red, white and blue firmly to the fore. Now, it seems, the English have begun to remember who they are.

I believe this trend began during Euro 96, when England were drawn in the same group as their Scottish neighbours. When the Scots came to Wembley, England fans were suddenly made aware that, no matter how attached to it they felt, the Union Jack wasn’t actually their flag. It belonged to the British.

Faced with this dilemma, they remembered England had its own flag, the flag of St George, which has now replaced the Union Jack at all English sporting events. This didn’t happen because someone in power decided it should. The fans, realising the Union Jack no longer represented them as England supporters, made the change.

Now we’ve reclaimed our own flag, isn’t it time we had our own national anthem? Isn’t God Save the Queen the musical equivalent of the Union Jack? When England played Wales in Cardiff recently, I felt a bit envious of the Welsh who sang their own national anthem. I’ve no idea what the words of Hen Wlad fy Nhadau actually mean, but I know what they say: They say “We’re Welsh. We love our country. It’s called Wales.”

By contrast, the sight of the England team singing the British national anthem suggests we aren’t really sure who we are, that maybe we’re not yet mature enough to be trusted with our own anthem

Now the Ashes series has drawn attention to the one song capable of doing the job – William Blake’s Jerusalem. You only had to see the tens of thousands of England fans singing it with the victorious men’s – and women’s – cricket teams in Trafalgar Square to make the case for adoption.

But Jerusalem has so much more going for it. Firstly, and this is a no-brainer, it mentions the name of our country whereas God Save The Queen, Rule Britannia, Land of Hope and Glory, and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot don’t.

Secondly, Jerusalem is rich with sporting metaphors. The opening line, “And did those feet in ancient time” immediately conjures up memories of Bobby Moore, Martin Johnson and WG Grace leading England out on to the pitch.

Doesn’t “the countenance divine” make you think of Kelly Holmes’s face as she crossed the finishing line to win gold at the Athens Olympics? And couldn’t Beckham and his millionaire buddies have done with a few of those “arrows of desire” against Northern Ireland last week?

Jerusalem would also make a great anthem for England because it’s a song about idealism. While the Scottish anthem, Flower of Scotland, goes on about beating the English 600 years ago, Jerusalem talks of the future, of fighting for something yet to be achieved “till we have built Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land”.

Some detractors have sarcastically asked why should we want to built a Middle Eastern city in England. Duh! Blake isn’t talking literally. Again, he is using mystical imagery. His metaphorical Jerusalem is an aspiration, an ideal we should aim for as a nation, be it in sport or in society as a whole. “I shall not cease from mental fight, nor shall my sword sleep in my hand”, the closing lines are actually saying, until we have achieved this glorious aim in England’s green and pleasant land.

After all, Hubert Parry originally set Blake’s poem to music for a rally in support of the Votes for Women campaign in 1918. The Women’s Institute adopted it later. Devoid of the jingoism that makes so many good tunes from that time sound dreadfully dated, Jerusalem’s radical roots make it relevant to everyone in modern England. So how can we make it a glorious national anthem for England?

Well, the cricket fans have given us a rousing start. And on Monday night at the West Ham versus Aston Villa Premiership clash at Upton Park, football fans spontaneously sang it to mark the Ashes win. Let’s keep that going. Rugby fans should dispense with the embarrassing renditions of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – originally sung ironically after a black player scored a hat-trick of tries, let’s not forget – and adopt Jerusalem too.

As for God Save The Queen, let’s sing that when Her Majesty is actually present, or when a Great Britain team is representing us all. It’s a very special song for those occasions when we – the Scots, the Welsh, the Northern Irish and the English – are all on the same side.

When we are supporting England, we should sing our own song. We were the only team at the last World Cup without its own national anthem. It’s time that changed. And Blake’s Jerusalem fits the bill.

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 shall not cease from Mental Fight
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green & pleasant Land.

Billy Bragg