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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Anton B
    May 29, 2014 @ 1:30 am

    … This poem, made famous by a 20th century musical setting by Richard Parry, calls for the construction of “Jerusalem In Englands green & pleasant Land” as an alternative to the “dark Satanic Mills” that currently blighted it…its framing in a fetishized “pastoral” Britain that is the true home of Jerusalem carries an unsettling vein of the same nationalism that animates the imperialist Britain Blake so often railed against.

    This made me wonder if you might be doing a 'Pop between Realities' on Danny Boyle' s Olympic opening ceremony which not only used Blakean imagery but had the added frisson (for Whovians who recalled the denouement of Fear Her) of teasing a Doctor Who-as-Brit-icon appearance.


  2. Michael Durant
    May 29, 2014 @ 3:35 am

    In the first place, I will admit that my Blake (and Moore/Morrison) lore is a little shaky (nay, negligible). However, Albion I know.

    You can find this in Bullfinch's Mythology: Albion is allegedly a giant Hercules slew on his way to his eponymous straits. His corpse, like Ymir's in the Odinic religion, becomes the island Britain.

    You can probably connect Blake's Albion, then, to Britain's pre-Christian past. And therefore, his daughter Jerusalem to Christianity, which found, for Blake, its truest form in Brittania.

    Or something like that.


  3. Roger Whitson
    May 29, 2014 @ 4:13 am

    Just a slight pedantic correction from a Blake scholar. It was actually Sir Hubert Parry who originally set the lines to music. He was commissioned by the British poet laureate Robert Bridges who included the lines in a 1915 nationalist anthology called The Spirit of Man.

    The Jerusalem hymn actually has a fascinating history (Jason Whittaker and I spend a chapter detailing that history in our book William Blake and the Digital Humanities – you can read it for free for the rest of May here – It was adopted by the group "Fight for Right" in the lead up to World War I to counter German war propaganda. Yet, Parry also allowed it to be used by the British suffragette movement for their campaign, and it became a center point of the Labour Manifesto of 1945 about rebuilding England after WW II. The hymn appears in many mid- and late-century films, often as short-hand symbolizing Britain, like Tony Richardson's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), Peter Watkin's Privilege (1968), and Hugh Hudson's Chariots of Fire (1981). It's the subject of many anti-establishment British punk music including songs by The Fall and Mark Stewart and the Mafia. Most recently, it was adopted by the neo-conservative British National Party (BNP) in their 2000 campaign.

    So Boyle's use of the hymn is probably participating in some way with this complex and contradictory history.


  4. BerserkRL
    May 29, 2014 @ 5:42 am

    "a tradition dating back to"?


  5. Sean Case
    May 29, 2014 @ 5:55 am

    There seems to be a name missing after "in a tradition dating back to." I thought Geoffrey of Monmouth at first, but I dare say it goes back further.


  6. Tom
    May 29, 2014 @ 6:37 am

    My favourite pop culture use of it is in the Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu's 1991 single, "It's Grim Up North" – steamhammer techno, sampled engine noises, a Scots voice reciting a list of Northern placenames, and finally Parry's music accompanied by the call of a lone crow. It's intensely evocative for me (and rather moving) – the Satanic mills fight back!


  7. Anton B
    May 29, 2014 @ 6:47 am

    I was guessing Aristotle.


  8. Tom
    May 29, 2014 @ 6:52 am

    I tend to assume you know literary references and are just leaving them out! Heaven knows tracking Moore's would be a thankless task. But anyhow, "A rag, a bone and a hank of hair" sounded familiar, and turns out to be Kipling – from his poem The Vampire (which is a bit male light/female void-y) – but I only found that out by googling.

    My familiarity with the phrase, and where a bunch of the kids reading The Daredevils might have known it, was when sci-fi author and then-staple of UK library kids' sections Nicholas Fisk borrowed it for the title of a novel. His ARABAAHOH came out in 1980, and is about cloning in a future Britain. (I remember repeatedly picking it off the school library shelves, fascinated by the title, and every time deciding it just sounded too creepy.)


  9. Aylwin
    May 29, 2014 @ 2:09 pm

    "…its framing in a fetishized “pastoral” Britain that is the true home of Jerusalem carries an unsettling vein of the same nationalism that animates the imperialist Britain Blake so often railed against."

    This seems to verge a bit too close to nationalism=imperialism. I don't think it is quite "the same nationalism" which is at issue here. After all, condemnation of the idea of leaving your homeland effectively rules out imperialism.

    Imperialism is by its nature internationalist, demanding intense engagement with and prolonged habitation in the outside world, in a way that conflicts sharply with pastoral veneration of the household gods and the fires of home, and threatens cultural "purity". The demands it imposes regarding the political and economic organisation of society and the opportunities and temptations it opens up can also be profoundly unsettling to adherents of traditional folk-ways and inherited social structures. (Classical antiquity is especially rich in examples of that sort of anxiety.)

    The sort of nationalism to which Blake's attitude is susceptible is surely not imperialism but the Little England ethos of the isolationist, anti-imperialist Right, which just wants to pull up the drawbridge and let the rest of the world go hang (or to sound an obvious echo of the post's title, "Let the Orcs have the realm that is theirs, and we will have ours"). It's not a clear-cut distinction of course, in various ways. In particular, the long-standing Protestant exceptionalist ideology of the Elect Nation, of England as the New Israel, that underlies Blake's association of Jerusalem with Britain found powerful aggressive as well as inward-turning forms of expression. But I still think Little England is the prevailing inclination.

    It's a tradition that has tended to get overlooked in recent decades, partly because of the tendency to stick everything right-wing into the same box, partly because ever since it came a cropper regarding "a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know little" it has been rather out of fashion among opinion-formers. The post-war establishment consensus has been a firmly internationalist one, even if different groups have differed about which sorts of engagement with the outside world should be prioritised. (Though the odd marginal voice has continued to crop up in back-bench Tory politics and the commentariat – see Simon Jenkins for a classic example of anti-internationalist, anti-imperialist pastoral conservativism.)

    Little-Englandism has continued to quietly bubble away at a popular level, though. Imperialism was never deeply assimilated into British popular culture and remained primarily an elite phenomenon, and the same may be said of other forms of openness to and engagement with the outside world that have come along later, including the proxy-imperialism of world-policing Atlanticism as well as European integration and multiculturalism. One strand in the rise of UKIP seems to be the re-emergence of a voice for this tendency on the political stage, opposing not only immigration and the EU but other sorts of entanglement with the wider world – I'm not sure anything UKIP have said has startled the political and media establishment quite like Nigel Farage's argument that Russia should be left to its own devices in the Ukraine. Anti-Atlanticism is not a point of view we have been used to hearing from the Right.


  10. Champiness
    May 29, 2014 @ 5:54 pm

    As someone who tuned into the opening ceremonies for its Underworld soundtrack and came out dazzled by how capably and optimistically this group of people were able to celebrate their culture, an entry on the 2012 Olympics would be lovely. It was my first introduction to an awful lot of what Phil writes about on here – and it'd be nice to finally be able to relate to something he was covering from the get-go, this close to the end.


  11. David Anderson
    May 29, 2014 @ 9:36 pm

    I think it comes over as part of Blake's innocent egotism, if that makes sense. It's the same attitude that has Blake putting significant figures from his personal mythology into his poetry without introduction; as if Blake thinks the reader has thought as much about them as Blake has. Blake's Albion, as Britain, is the centre of Blake's poetry, because Britain is Blake's world, and so Britain stands in for the world.


  12. Nyq Only
    May 29, 2014 @ 11:18 pm

    Progressive nationalism is not unusual for nations whose population is to some degree engaging in a liberation struggle. Of course there is no neat boundary between the nationalism that arises out of the hopes and aspirations of an oppressed people (e.g. Zionism in late 19th century and early 20th) and the nationalism of the uglier kind (e.g. Zionism of the modern Likud variety)
    Jerusalem the hymn resists co-option despite many attempts because it has a genuine feel of "lets make this the best place to live" and also a weirdness that makes it feel not entirely respectable.


  13. Kit
    May 29, 2014 @ 11:41 pm

    a Scots voice reciting a list of Northern placenames,

    A Scouse voice, on initial release! (Pete Wylie, as Drummond completed his Top Trumps set of Crucial Three members before leaving the music business.)

    (Which reminds me: I think Phil didn't mention, in some big Illuminatus/KLF post somewhen, that Drummond's first job in show business was building sets on Ken Campbell's marathon Illuminatus! stage play in Liverpool…)


  14. Daibhid C
    May 30, 2014 @ 12:24 am

    IIRC, clones of a WWII family that were placed in a WWII recreation, with the Viewpoint Kid having to get training in Mid-20th Century Britain before he could interact with them (the bit I remember, for some reason, is "the difference between high tea and teatime tea").

    And it was very creepy.


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