Analysis of Jerusalem by William Blake


William Blake was an English poet who is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age. His visual artistry led 21st-century critic Jonathan Jones to proclaim him "far and away the greatest artist Britain has ever produced”.

William Blake was a Romantic poet who valued the deeper connection with man and nature. He was up against the invasion of industrial revolution which made people mechanic and slaves of desire. Like most of his poems, he is critical about the destruction of greenery and establishment of industries which destroy the beauty of the world making people toil and suffer for living.

This poem is part of a longer poem "Milton" published in 1808. It became more popularly known as "Jerusalem" after Sir Hubert Parry set it to music in 1916. The musical form of the poem "Jerusalem," in its new use, was meant to reunite and motivate English troops, and is considered as unofficial anthem of England.



Title: ‘Jerusalem’ is presented as a symbol of rejuvenation, greenery, and heaven. The poet compares England before the Industrial Revolution to biblical Jerusalem, a metaphor for heaven.

Form: The poem, composed of four stanzas is like a Christian allegory (An allegory is a narrative in which a character or event is used to speak about a broader theme: here poet uses biblical characters to discuss about the theme.)

Rhyme scheme: Maintains an ABCB rhyme except for one stanza. However, in the third stanza, the rhyme scheme is ABAB. The stanza also exhibits some repetition and a more regular meter.

Tone: Critical and ironic

Mood: Yields a sense of nostalgia and sadness

Themes: Disastrous effects of industrialization and yearning hope for a greener world, inevitable change in the world which is hard to change or reverse.

Narration: first person narration exhibiting the critical insights of the poet who yearns for a greener world.


Deep-end Analysis


And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon Englands mountains green:

And was the holy Lamb of God,

On Englands pleasant pastures seen!


Visual imagery: mountain green (created a picture of lush greenish vegetation, green colour always goes with fertility and prosperity)

Allusion: holy Lamb of God (refers to young Jesus Christ who is considered as the son of God)

Alliteration: pleasant pastures


The poem opens with the mythical legend of a young Jesus visiting the shores of England. Poet interrogates whether the feet of the son of god touched the lush greenery of the past pastoral England which had not been stained by the outputs of industrialization. Here the reader can see the typical Romantic poet Blake who tries to build a connection with nature and god by keeping them side by side, correlating the pleasant greenery to Jerusalem, the heaven. 


And did the Countenance Divine,

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Among these dark Satanic Mills?


Visual imagery: shine forth upon clouded hills/ dark mills (darker imagery to contrast the presence of god versus the industrialized England, the dark clouds created by man-made factories)

Metaphor: Satanic Mills (refers to the factories created by mankind to lure people to enter the world of work forgetting their natural way of life.)

Allusion: Satan (is the angel who in Jewish belief is commanded by God to tempt humans to sin, to accuse the sinners, and to carry out God's punishment / chief spirit of evil and adversary of God; tempter of mankind; master of Hell.) Satanic Mill (The first factory Albion Flour Mills, one that could produce thousands of bushels of flour per week)


The poet is ambiguous of the fact whether the God built (poet uses builded instead of built to satirize the action) Jerusalem in a place which is not suitable for such a purpose. He contrasts the powerful gaze upon a place clouded by dark fumes of industrialization.  The infamous phrase “dark Satanic Mills” refers to the mills or factories of the industrial era. Through this phrase, Blake means that the industrial revolution was not a blessing in disguise. It was a blessing with a two-headed sword. Like Satan, it appeared to be positive but harmed several lives.


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!


Anaphora: Bring me my (just like the god commanding somebody to bring his weapons to be ready to fight against the adversary who tries to disturb the holy purpose of building Jerusalem)

Alliteration: bring me my bow of burning gold (creates an angry, commanding tone)

Metaphor: arrow of desire (may be referring to the intention of the God to build a heaven cleansing the adversaries)

Visual imagery: burning gold/ chariot of fire (sets the scene of Greek gods, whose outfits and almost everything related to glittering gold (even blood of gods of Greek were said to be gold in color)

Allusion: Chariot of fire (the prophet Elijah is taken on a heavenly ride on a chariot of fire, to justify god’s divine message. Elijah brings divine wrath upon those who deserved it. he orders divine fire from the skies in order to neutralize a group of people.)


The speaker seemingly angry after seeing the impact of Industrialization. So, he attempts to topple everything by seeking energy from Greek gods.


I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:

Till we have built Jerusalem,

In Englands green & pleasant Land.


Alliteration: sword sleep

Personification: my sword sleep

Metaphors: Mental Fight, sword sleep in my hand (may be referring to his use of his intellect to fight against, like he has done using his poetry.)


In the last stanza too the poet confirms that he would not give up his mental nor physical fight against the Satanic creations in the world. He wishes to form Jerusalem in the green and pleasant English lands. Confirming this idea, Blake continuously struggled against the disastrous effects on humankind along the path of modernism and industrialization. He, as a Romantic poet wanted people to stay close to nature and live according to the natural way. His most of the poems and his supporting to political movements like French Revolution are examples to show that he has not given up his mental or physical fight against the anti-heaven built in his soil.    

You may read the Analysis of Chimney Sweeper by William Blake which shows how he voices against the outputs of industrialized world. 

The poem has however created a number of counter arguments regarding building the new Jerusalem in England. However, as I feel poet has used the term as a symbol to juxtapose the ideal England vs the contemporary England. What are your ideas regarding this magnum opus of Blake? Share your thoughtful comment in the comment section. Share the post if you find it worthwhile to others.



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