The English Literature session, 'Blake's 'Jerusalem' and the Politics of Romantic Poetry' asked students to think about Blake's well-known but never-understood poem 'Jerusalem'. This hymnlike poem appears in the Preface to a much longer epic poem, Milton (composed c. 1804-11). The second odd point is that far more people have heard the poem than read it. Hubert Parry set it to music in 1916, and it was adopted by the Suffragette movement. English (not always British) people like to sing it at various national events, from football to the Womens Institute AGM, and of course every year at the Last Night of the Proms.
But is the poem a statement of triumph, or a warning? Students noted that the poem seemed full of ironies, that it contained folkloric elements that perhaps suggested a popular mode, or an anti-style. Until lunchtime, we began a conversation that will not end, but will continue to open up inquiry indefinitely.