And did those feet in ancient times,
Walk upon mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth on clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem
In the dark Satanic Mills?
This is where the Blake kicks in, so there’s an obvious decline in the quality of verse. But he does well enough. Personally, if it’s to be the words of another, I’m happier when Mark E Smith is singing from that other musical genius (who very nearly made my selection) Lee “Scratch” Perry, whose Why Are People Grudgeful was covered by The Fall on The Infotainment Scan. Or, another cover from the same album, his extraordinary version of Lost in Music:
L’argent est sur la table, (the money is on the table)
Pris au piege, (trapped)
Inutile de regarder en arriere, (It’s useless to look behind you)
Perdu dans la musique, (lost in music)
Cretin, va te faire foutre! (A*shole, fu*k you!)
I’m lost in music
Feel so alive
I quit my ten-to-five
I’m lost in music
Blake couldn’t have written that, now, could he? For one thing, his French wasn’t nearly good enough, which is why he was always harping on about England’s pleasant pastures. Before we go any further I ought to point out that these words form part of Blake’s dedicatory quatrains from Milton, published in 1804 by an early incarnation of the Polecat Press. The words were later renamed Jerusalem, when they became part of a famous church hymn – the 19th century equivalent of being an enormous disco hit. Like so many popstars, Blake shone for a brief while before the drugs started to take their toll, and his hymn sales started flagging. He was latterly spotted buying meals for one at the legendary Worcester Cabbage Market.
Still, I like the bit about Dark Satanic Mills. It rather reminds me of Grace Nichols’ Dark Ancestral Spectres.