Music and Lyrics

5 02 2009

At youth group last Sunday, I talked about how music and lyrics, once married together, are next to impossible to divorce – even separated, the music will inevitably remind you of the lyrics, and the lyrics will inexorably bring to mind the music.

Many writers before me have written of how the marriage of words and music is one, if not the artistic masterstroke ofthe human race. They go so well together, it is altogether impossible (at least for me) to conceive of a time when they were not together.

I write this because I’ve recently read the lyrics to that BBC Proms staple, Jerusalem by Hubert Parry – this after hearing it for over a year or so. I have a DVD of the last night of the 2000 Proms, and popping it into a portable DVD player, I discovered the thing had subtitles (yes, yes, I hear the laughter).

The disc got to the singing of Jerusalem, and I discovered these lyrics, first penned by the poet William Blake:

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.

Nevermind that the first lines speak of the Kabbalistic tradition (which is unbiblical) of Jesus Christ  journeying to England – there’s something about the idea of building the City of God among “dark, satanic mills” that I find undeniably stirring in the most profound way – building a godly life atop (and here I must use a stronger word than Blake used: atop and not among – one must tear down the old city before a new one can be built) the dark machinations of a sensuous one.

Ah, I wish I could write something like that. I don’t think I can hear that tune again and those words not come to mind.

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