Study Guide

Jerusalem Quotes

  • Memory and the Past

    And did those feet in ancient time
    Walk upon Englands mountains green: (1-2)

    Right away, the speaker lets us know that "Jerusalem" is a poem about the past. In the first line he starts talking about "ancient time," although it's not yet clear that he is referring to Jesus. Nevertheless, since he's asking a question, it's immediately clear that he's not sure just what exactly happened back then.

    And was the holy Lamb of God,
    On England's pleasant pastures seen! (3-4)

    Okay, now things start to get a little more magical. The speaker is wondering if Jesus (the "holy Lamb of God") once came to England. As with the first lines of the poem, the speaker is asking questions, which suggests that he's not quite sure about the past.

    And was Jerusalem builded here,
    Among these dark Satanic Mills? (7-8)

    Okay, now wait a second. The "mills" clearly refers to something modern (like eighteenth-century modern), but the speaker is talking about ancient times, right? Hmm, is the speaker confusing his eras here? Maybe, but maybe he's making a point about how the past is like the present, or about how history repeats itself.

    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. (13-16)

    This stanza is all about repetition. The words used here ("Jerusalem," "green," "pleasant," "built") have already been used earlier in the poem. The poem thus repeats its own past, you could say, which is the speaker's way of emphasizing his interest in making the present and future just like the past.

  • Change

    Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
    Bring me my arrows of desire: (9-10)

    The speaker asks somebody to bring him his magical weapons, which makes it sound like he's going to wreak havoc on those "dark Satanic Mills." This obsession with weaponry will continue, and it definitely recalls Jesus' claim to have brought not peace, but the sword, in order to overhaul the whole system.

    Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
    Bring me my Chariot of fire! (11-12)

    Now the speaker wants a spear to go with his bow and arrows, and a chariot of fire to boot. We get the impression that the speaker wants to ride around and scare people in his chariot while he destroys things, or that he wants to light a huge fire so that everything can be rebuilt. (We secretly think he had this album in mind.)

    I will not cease from Mental Fight, (13)

    The speaker plans to fight, that's for sure, but to fight mentally? It sure sounds like all these references to weaponry may just be metaphors for changing one's outlook. Change may not need to be violent at all, or at least only violent toward one's former ways of looking at things.

    Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand (14)

    The speaker vows to do his part to change things, or so he says. His sword will be active and awake (not asleep), which is way of saying he plans to destroy what must be destroyed. It's part of a grander plan. The speaker again alludes to Jesus' words in the Gospel of Matthew to make his point.

    Till we have built Jerusalem,
    In Englands green & pleasant Land. (15-16)

    To build Jerusalem—that is the speaker's goal. The "dark Satanic mills" need to be done away with, and a new Jerusalem put in its place. England's "Land" is already green and pleasant, so the time is ripe.

  • Perseverance

    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! (9-12)

    The speaker clearly intends to take action and do what needs to be done. He illustrates his intent to persevere by using anaphora. The speaker continues to use the same word. He perseveres in his word choice, you could say, and intends to achieve his goal.

    I will not cease from Mental Fight (13)

    This is a very strong statement about the speaker's perseverance. He will not cease. It's not that he'll try not to cease, or he'll probably not cease, or he might not cease, but that he will not cease.

    Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:
    Till we have built Jerusalem,
    In Englands green & pleasant Land. (14-16)

    The speaker first said he wouldn't cease, and he now he makes the goal he's after even clearer. His sword will not sleep, which is his metaphorical way of saying he will vigilantly continue to fight to rebuild Jerusalem. He too will not sleep.