Skip to main content


Over the Jubilee weekend it has been hard to avoid renditions of Jerusalem (And did those feet/in ancient time) - and I've heard it described on the radio as a jubilant anthem and a celebratory hymn. In fact only one of those key words loosely applies to this strangest of songs.

Let's take 'jubilant' and 'celebratory' first and give them a good kicking. It's nothing of the sort. It's a whinging NIMBY protest song. When William Blake wrote the poem, they were building a factory in sight of his house (from memory it was in in Chiswick, but don't quote me), and he didn't like it one bit. This was a rant about his view being ruined.

Then there's that word 'hymn'. You will admittedly find the song in both the UK's big traditional hymn books, the far superior English Hymnal and the uninspiring Ancient and Modern. But this is arguably a mistake. In structure it is more like an anthem - and it's certainly beyond most congregations to sing well. I've never heard anyone but a choir get the ending right, for example. But more importantly, it's not really very Christian. Apart from the protest song element, the main theme is a bizarre myth that has nothing to do with conventional religious beliefs.

So there we have it. Neither jubilant anthem nor celebratory hymn, but an ornate and tricky protest song.

If you aren't British and wonder what I'm droning on about, here it is in an appropriately regal setting:


Popular posts from this blog

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Best writing advice

I saw on Twitter the other day (via someone I know answering it), the question 'What's the best writing advice you would give to someone who wants to become a writer?' My knee-jerk response was 'Don't do it, because you aren't one.' What I mean by this is that - at least in my personal experience - you don't become a writer. Either you are one, or you aren't. There's plenty of advice to be had on how to become a better writer, or how to become a published writer... but certainly my case I always was one - certainly as soon as I started reading books.  While I was at school, I made comics. I wrote stories.  My first novel was written in my teens (thankfully now lost). I had a first career that wasn't about being a writer, but I still wrote in my spare time, sending articles off to magazines and writing a handful of novels. And eventually writing took over entirely. If you are a writer, you can't help yourself. You just do it. I'm writ