Jerusalem by William Blake: A Complete Analysis

July 10, 2024 | by poemread.com

Jerusalem by William Blake A Complete Analysis

William Blake’s poem “Jerusalem [“And did those feet in ancient time”]” is a piece that has stirred imaginations and hearts for centuries. Known for its rich imagery and powerful themes, this poem has become a staple in English literature, resonating deeply with themes of faith, hope, and revolution. Today, we’ll delve into the depths of this iconic work, exploring its subject, context, themes, tone, form, and structure to uncover the layers that make it a timeless masterpiece.

Jerusalem ["And did those feet in ancient time"]

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands 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 Englands green & pleasant Land.


About the Author: William Blake

William Blake (1757-1827) was a visionary poet, painter, and printmaker who left an indelible mark on English literature and art. Blake was a radical thinker who drew heavily from his personal spiritual experiences as well as the turbulent political climate of his era.

His works often reflect his visionary and mystical beliefs, characterized by a unique blend of innocence and experience, as well as an intense critique of the social and political issues of his day. Blake’s ability to weave profound philosophical and theological ideas into his poetry makes him a distinctive and influential figure in the literary canon.

Subject of “Jerusalem” by William Blake

“Jerusalem” explores the mythic possibility that Jesus Christ once visited England, a notion inspired by the legend that Joseph of Arimathea traveled to England with Jesus during his lost years. The poem questions whether this divine presence could have walked upon England’s green hills and whether such a divine vision could shine forth among the industrial, “dark Satanic Mills” of Blake’s contemporary England. The subject is not merely about a physical journey but about a spiritual quest and the potential for a new, utopian society built upon divine principles.

Context of “Jerusalem” by William Blake

Written in the early 19th century, “Jerusalem” is part of the preface to Blake’s epic poem “Milton: A Poem in Two Books.” The Industrial Revolution, which brought about significant social and economic changes, was a defining feature of this time period in England. Blake witnessed the harsh realities of industrialization, including child labor, poverty, and environmental degradation.

His work often reflects a deep discontent with the societal transformation he observed, advocating for a return to a more innocent, pastoral way of life. The poem captures the tension between the idealized pastoral past and the grim industrial present, urging a spiritual and moral awakening.

Persona, Setting, and Narrative in “Jerusalem” by William Blake


In “Jerusalem,” William Blake adopts the persona of a visionary poet and prophet. This persona embodies a blend of reverence and defiance, questioning the presence of the divine in the contemporary world while calling for spiritual and moral action. Blake’s voice is passionate and urgent, reflecting his deep concern for the spiritual well-being of his society. He speaks not just as an observer but as someone who feels deeply connected to both the divine and the plight of his nation. This connection allows Blake to effectively convey his yearning for a better world.


The setting of “Jerusalem” is a juxtaposition of two contrasting environments: the idyllic, pastoral landscapes of England and the dark, oppressive industrial landscape symbolized by “Satanic Mills.” Blake references England’s “mountains green” and “pleasant pastures,” invoking a sense of natural beauty and tranquility.

The mention of “dark Satanic mills,” which stands for the grim reality of industrialization, disturbs this serene imagery. This dual setting underscores the tension between the purity of the natural world and the corruption brought by industrial progress. The setting serves as a backdrop for Blake’s vision of a new “Jerusalem,” an idealized version of England where divine presence and moral integrity prevail.


The narrative of “Jerusalem” unfolds through a series of rhetorical questions and powerful declarations. Blake begins by wondering whether Jesus Christ once walked on England’s green hills and if the divine light ever shone upon its clouded landscapes. These questions create a sense of wonder and longing for a return to spiritual purity. As the poem progresses, the narrative shifts to a call to action.

Blake demands spiritual and moral tools—such as the “Bow of burning gold” and “Chariot of fire”—to combat the corruption of industrialization and build a new, just society. The narrative is not linear but rather cyclical, reflecting Blake’s continuous struggle between hope and despair, vision and reality.

Theme and Tone

In "Jerusalem," Blake contrasts divine beauty with industrial gloom, urging us to seek spiritual renewal and create a just society rooted in moral values.


The theme of “Jerusalem [“And did those feet in ancient time”]” revolves around the pursuit of a divine vision and the hope for a utopian society. Blake contrasts the idyllic, pastoral past with the harsh realities of industrialization. He envisions a world where spiritual and moral principles prevail over the corrupting influence of industrialization.

Therefore, the poem calls for a return to a more innocent, harmonious way of life. Blake’s desire to build a new “Jerusalem” in England reflects his hope for societal transformation. Ultimately, it’s a theme of redemption, encouraging people to work for a better, more just world.


The tone of the poem is both visionary and defiant. Blake’s use of rhetorical questions in the beginning evokes a sense of wonder and longing. However, as the poem progresses, the tone shifts to one of determination and urgency. The imperative commands in the latter stanzas emphasize Blake’s call to action.

He passionately urges readers to join him in the “Mental Fight” to build a new, divine society. This combination of visionary hope and defiant resolve creates a powerful emotional impact. It shows Blake’s commitment to his idealistic vision and his unwavering belief in the possibility of transformation.

Form and Structure of “Jerusalem” by William Blake


The poem consists of four quatrains, or four-line stanzas. Each stanza describes a distinct thought or image. These quatrains create a rhythmic pattern, allowing the poem to flow gracefully.

Rhyme Scheme

Blake employs an ABAB rhyme scheme throughout the poem. This consistent pattern contributes to the poem’s musical quality.

Here’s an example:

Stanza 1:
And did those feet in ancient time (A)
Walk upon England’s mountains green? (B)
And was the holy Lamb of God (A)
On England’s pleasant pastures seen! (B)

Punctuation and Line Breaks

Blake intentionally uses minimal punctuation. Commas and colons are sparingly placed, allowing the verses to breathe. The line breaks serve as strategic pauses, emphasizing key moments:

  • “And did those feet in ancient time” (line 1)
  • “Bring me my Bow of burning gold” (line 5)
  • “I will not cease from Mental Fight” (line 7)

Rhyme and Rhythm

The poem’s rhyme scheme creates a sense of harmony, echoing the pastoral landscapes it describes. The rhythm is iambic tetrameter, with four stressed syllables per line. This regular beat propels the reader forward.

For example:And did / those feet / in an / cient time

Each line follows this pattern of unstressed and stressed syllables, creating a steady, rhythmic flow.

Overall Effect

The form and structure of “Jerusalem [“And did those feet in ancient time”]” play a crucial role in conveying its message. The poem’s consistent rhyme scheme, rhythmic meter, and shift from rhetorical questions to imperative commands effectively convey Blake’s vision of hope, determination, and the need for societal transformation.

The quatrains and iambic tetrameter provide a rhythmic and musical quality, making the poem memorable and engaging. The minimal punctuation and strategic line breaks enhance the flow and emphasize key moments, inviting readers to ponder the tension between past and present, nature and progress.

Line-by-Line Analysis of “Jerusalem” by William Blake

First Stanza

In the first stanza, Blake opens with a series of rhetorical questions. He asks whether Jesus Christ’s feet ever walked on England’s green mountains and if the holy Lamb of God appeared on its pleasant pastures. These questions foster a sense of wonder and curiosity, inviting readers to contemplate the possibility of a divine presence in their homeland. The imagery of “mountains green” and “pleasant pastures” creates a pastoral scene, contrasting sharply with the industrialized world Blake observed.

And did those feet in ancient time

Blake opens the poem with a rhetorical question. He wonders if, in ancient times, the feet of Jesus Christ walked on England’s soil. This line sets a tone of wonder and curiosity, inviting readers to imagine a divine presence in their land.

Walk upon England’s mountains green:

He continues to build this vision by specifying that these sacred feet walked upon England’s “mountains green.” This phrase evokes the lush, idyllic landscape of England, contrasting sharply with the industrial reality Blake saw around him.

And was the holy Lamb of God,

Blake uses the term “holy Lamb of God” to refer to Jesus Christ. This phrase emphasizes the purity and divinity of Christ, reinforcing the sacred nature of the imagined visit.

On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

The stanza concludes with another question, asking if Christ was seen on England’s “pleasant pastures.” This line reinforces the idyllic image of England’s terrain. The use of “pleasant pastures” further contrasts the divine and peaceful past with the harsh industrial present.

Second Stanza

Blake keeps asking rhetorical questions in the second line. He wants to know if the Countenance Divine, which is the face of God, has ever lit up England’s “clouded hills.” This imagery shows the contrast between the brightness of divine light and the pollution or darkness of the “dark Satanic Mills,” which stand for the bad effects of industrialization. The word “Jerusalem” in the poem shows that Blake wants to make a perfect society out of the harsh industrial world, which is a reflection of his criticism of how corrupt society is.

And did the Countenance Divine,

Blake begins the second stanza with another rhetorical question. He refers to the “Countenance Divine,” a term for the face of God, suggesting the presence of divine radiance. This line continues the theme of divine presence and holiness established in the first stanza.

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

He asks if this divine face shone upon England’s “clouded hills.” The word “clouded” implies a sense of darkness or obscurity, contrasting with the divine light. This contrast highlights the idea of divine intervention or enlightenment amidst a bleak or troubled landscape.

And was Jerusalem builded here,

Blake questions if “Jerusalem,” symbolizing a heavenly city or an ideal society, was ever established in England. This line introduces the central vision of the poem: the hope for a utopian society based on spiritual and moral values.

Among these dark Satanic Mills?

The stanza concludes with a stark contrast. Blake refers to the “dark Satanic Mills,” a powerful metaphor for the oppressive and dehumanizing effects of industrialization. These mills symbolize the loss of innocence and the spiritual degradation caused by industrial progress.

Third Stanza

Blake changes from asking questions to giving orders in the third stanza. He asks for divine tools, such as a “Bow of burning gold,” which stands for purity and power, “Arrows of desire,” which represent strong aspirations, “Spear,” which stands for strength and determination, and “Chariot of fire,” which stands for speed and the power of transformation. These orders show that Blake is ready for spiritual and moral battle and show how much he wants things to change.

Bring me my Bow of burning gold:

Blake shifts from asking questions to issuing commands. He calls for a “Bow of burning gold,” symbolizing divine power and purity. The “burning gold” suggests both spiritual enlightenment and intense passion.

Bring me my Arrows of desire:

He continues by asking for “Arrows of desire.” These arrows represent strong, fervent aspirations. Blake’s use of “desire” conveys a sense of urgent and intense longing for change and transformation.

Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!

Blake demands a “Spear,” a symbol of strength and determination. He then exclaims, “O clouds unfold!” This command suggests a revelation or clearing away of obstructions, making way for divine intervention and clarity.

Bring me my Chariot of fire!

Finally, Blake summons a “Chariot of fire,” drawing upon imagery of divine chariots found in religious texts. This symbolizes power, speed, and transformative energy. The use of “fire” signifies purification and intense spiritual passion.

Fourth Stanza

Within the last stanza, Blake stresses his dedication. He claims the will to keep up the “Mental Fight,” highlighting his ongoing spiritual and intellectual battle. The metaphorical “sword” stands for his willingness to actively defend his beliefs. According to Blake, he won’t be satisfied until “Jerusalem” is built in England’s “green and pleasant land.” This represents his ideal society based on spiritual and moral principles. Within this stanza, Blake’s passionate call to action and unwavering dedication to changing society are summed up.

I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Blake declares his unyielding resolve to engage in a “Mental Fight.” This phrase indicates a battle of ideas, beliefs, and spiritual struggle. The use of “Mental Fight” emphasizes that this struggle is internal and intellectual, rather than physical.

Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand:

He vows that his “sword” will not “sleep” in his hand, suggesting that he will remain actively engaged and ready for action. The “sword” symbolizes his determination and willingness to fight for his ideals.

Till we have built Jerusalem,

Blake sets a goal: to “build Jerusalem” in England. This line reiterates his vision of creating an ideal society based on spiritual and moral values. The construction of “Jerusalem” symbolizes the establishment of a just, harmonious world.

In England’s green & pleasant Land.

The stanza concludes with a geographical reference to “England’s green & pleasant Land.” This phrase creates an idyllic, pastoral image of England’s countryside. It contrasts with the earlier mention of “dark Satanic Mills,” highlighting Blake’s desire to reclaim and preserve the natural beauty and purity of the land.

Poetic and Literary Devices Used in”Jerusalem” by William Blake

In "Jerusalem," Blake contrasts divine beauty with industrial gloom, urging us to seek spiritual renewal and create a just society rooted in moral values.


Blake uses vivid imagery to create a contrast between the divine and the industrial. These images help to create powerful mental pictures, enriching the poem’s themes.

  • “England’s mountains green”: This image evokes a serene, pastoral landscape, representing the natural beauty of England.
  • “pleasant pastures”: This phrase reinforces the idyllic and peaceful vision of the English countryside.
  • “clouded hills”: This image suggests a landscape overshadowed by darkness or pollution, hinting at the negative effects of industrialization.
  • “dark Satanic Mills”: This powerful image symbolizes the oppressive and corrupting influence of industrial factories.
  • “Bow of burning gold”: This metaphor represents purity, power, and divine intervention.
  • “Chariot of fire”: This image conjures up notions of divine power, speed, and transformative energy, reflecting a biblical and mythological influence.

Rhetorical Questions

Blake uses rhetorical questions to provoke thought and highlight the poem’s central themes. These questions emphasize the contrast between an idealized past and the harsh industrial present.

  • “And did those feet in ancient time / Walk upon England’s mountains green?”: Blake questions whether Christ once walked on England’s soil, suggesting a divine presence in the past.
  • “And was the holy Lamb of God / On England’s pleasant pastures seen?”: This question continues the theme of divine presence, now focusing on the image of the holy Lamb.
  • “And did the Countenance Divine / Shine forth upon our clouded hills?”: Blake asks if the divine face ever shone upon England’s now polluted hills.
  • “And was Jerusalem builded here / Among these dark Satanic Mills?”: This question contrasts the idea of a heavenly city with the reality of industrial corruption.


Blake uses symbolism to convey complex ideas through simple images, deepening the poem’s meaning.

  • “Holy Lamb of God”: This symbolizes Jesus Christ and purity.
  • “Jerusalem”: Represents an ideal, utopian society.
  • “Bow of burning gold”: Symbolizes purity, divine intervention, and moral righteousness.
  • “Arrows of desire”: Represent intense, fervent aspirations for change.
  • “Spear”: Signifies strength, determination, and readiness for battle.
  • “Chariot of fire”: Symbolizes divine power and transformation, echoing biblical references.


Blake uses alliteration to create a musical quality and to draw attention to specific lines and themes.

  • “dark Satanic Mills”: The repetition of the “d” sound emphasizes the oppressive nature of industrialization.
  • “Mental Fight”: The repetition of the “m” sound underscores the internal and intellectual struggle.
  • “Sword sleep”: The repetition of the “s” sound highlights the idea of readiness and vigilance.


Repetition emphasizes key themes and ideas, reinforcing Blake’s message and making the poem more memorable.

  • “Bring me my”: Repeated in the third stanza, this phrase underscores Blake’s urgent call for divine tools.
  • “I will not cease” and “Nor shall my sword sleep”: These phrases in the fourth stanza highlight Blake’s unwavering commitment and determination.


Blake uses contrast to highlight the differences between the divine and the industrial, the past and the present, and the ideal and the real.

  • “England’s mountains green” vs. “dark Satanic Mills”: This contrast highlights the transformation from natural beauty to industrial corruption.
  • “Countenance Divine” vs. “clouded hills”: The divine light contrasts with the darkness of industrial pollution.
  • “Jerusalem” vs. the industrial landscape: The heavenly city contrasts sharply with the oppressive industrial reality.


Blake uses metaphors to convey deeper meanings and to draw connections between different ideas.

  • “Sword sleep”: This metaphor suggests inactivity or complacency, implying that Blake’s resolve will not rest.
  • “Mental Fight”: This metaphor represents the spiritual and intellectual struggle that Blake is committed to.


The tone of the poem shifts from contemplative and questioning to passionate and resolute. This change reflects Blake’s growing urgency and determination to inspire change.

  • Contemplative and Questioning: In the initial stanzas, Blake’s tone invites readers to reflect on the past and consider the divine presence.
  • Passionate and Resolute: In the later stanzas, his tone becomes more urgent and determined, calling for action and commitment.


Blake uses anaphora, the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive lines, to create a rhythm and emphasize his urgent call to action.

  • “Bring me my”: Repeated at the beginning of three lines in the third stanza, emphasizing the need for divine tools.
  • “I will not cease” and “Nor shall my sword sleep”: In the fourth stanza, these phrases emphasize Blake’s unwavering resolve.


Parallelism involves using similar structures in two or more lines to create a sense of balance and rhythm.

  • “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!”: This parallel structure adds to the rhythmic and emphatic nature of Blake’s plea.


Blake uses allusion to reference biblical and mythological themes, enriching the poem’s meaning.

  • “Chariot of fire”: This alludes to the biblical story of Elijah being taken to heaven in a chariot of fire, symbolizing divine intervention and power.
  • “Holy Lamb of God”: This alludes to Jesus Christ, symbolizing sacrifice and purity.


Blake employs metonymy, where a thing is called by the name of something associated with it, to add depth to his imagery.

  • “Sword sleep”: Represents inactivity or rest, with the sword standing in for action or battle readiness.


Blake uses hyperbole, or exaggerated statements, to emphasize his points and convey the intensity of his vision.

  • “Bring me my Chariot of fire!”: The call for a chariot of fire is an exaggerated plea for divine intervention and transformation.


Juxtaposition involves placing two contrasting ideas next to each other to highlight their differences.

  • “England’s green & pleasant Land” vs. “dark Satanic Mills”: This juxtaposition highlights the stark contrast between the natural beauty of England and the destructive nature of industrialization.

Implications and Meanings of “Jerusalem” by William Blake

Spiritual Quest

At its heart, “Jerusalem” is a spiritual search for God in a troubled world. Blake starts by asking rhetorical questions, like if Jesus Christ ever walked on England’s green and pleasant lands. This desire for spiritual purity shows a need for divine and moral direction. Moreover, symbols from the Bible and mythology, like the “holy Lamb of God” and the “Chariot of fire,” emphasize this desire for spiritual renewal and help from God.

Critique of Industrialization

Blake’s reference to “dark Satanic Mills” is an attack on the Industrial Revolution. These mills symbolize how industrialization has made people less human and less moral. Blake shows how industrial growth hurts the environment and people’s spirits by comparing the peaceful images of “mountains green” and “pleasant pastures” with the grimness of the mills. So, this contrast shows how concerned he is about losing innocence and exploiting people and nature.

Call to Action

In the third and fourth stanzas, the tone changes from contemplation to a powerful appeal to action. Blake seeks “Bow of burning gold,” “arrows of desire,” “Spear,” and “Chariot of fire” as weapons of divine warfare. These words represent the need for spiritual and moral weapons to fight industrialization and social corruption. Thus, he urges everyone to work together to create a new “Jerusalem,” a perfect society based on fairness, spirituality, and justice.

Utopian Vision

Blake’s vision of “Jerusalem” represents a utopian aspiration. Jerusalem symbolizes a perfect society where spiritual and moral values prevail. By invoking Jerusalem, Blake suggests that such a transformation is not only desirable but possible. Therefore, this vision serves as a critique of the present and a hopeful prophecy for the future.

Personal and Collective Responsibility

Furthermore, Blake stresses that we are all responsible, individually and collectively. Phrases such as “I will not cease from Mental Fight” emphasize personal dedication, whereas “Till we have built Jerusalem” stresses the importance of a collective community effort. To realize Blake’s dream, it is essential to strike a balance between individual determination and teamwork. 

Relevance Today

The themes of “Jerusalem” are still relevant today. Blake’s plea for a return to moral and spiritual values in the face of technological advancement is consistent with contemporary concerns about sustainability and ethical progress. Thus, the poem encourages readers to consider their roles in creating a just and equitable society.

To summarize, “Jerusalem” is a discussion on spirituality, industrialization, and social change. Its imagery, rhetorical questions, and calls to action urge readers to consider their spiritual and moral obligations. Blake’s vision of a new Jerusalem criticizes his current society while also offering a hopeful vision for the future, encouraging humanity to strive for a world built on divine and moral principles.

Interactive Summary of “Jerusalem” by William Blake

In "Jerusalem," Blake contrasts divine beauty with industrial gloom, urging us to seek spiritual renewal and create a just society rooted in moral values.

“Jerusalem” by William Blake invites readers to explore deep themes of spirituality, industrialization, and social change. Through vivid imagery, Blake asks if divine presence once blessed England’s green and pleasant land. He contrasts this with the dark reality of “Satanic Mills,” symbolizing the negative impact of the Industrial Revolution.

Blake passionately calls for spiritual renewal, using powerful symbols like the “Bow of burning gold” and “Chariot of fire.” He envisions a new “Jerusalem,” an ideal society based on justice and spiritual values. This vision challenges readers to reflect on their own roles in creating a better, more ethical world.

So, how do you see Blake’s vision of a just society relating to today’s world? What actions can we take to build our own “Jerusalem”? This poem encourages us to consider these questions and work together for a future guided by moral and spiritual principles.

If you’re interested in themes of nature and contemplation, check out our analysis of “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost, which explores the tension between life’s demands and moments of peaceful reflection.


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