And did those feet in ancient time.
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s 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 England’s green and pleasant Land .
Blake refers to the pleasing apocryphal tradition that the young Christ visited Glastonbury with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea.
It is thrilling: the notion that those feet, in ancient time, walked upon England’s mountains green, that the Holy Lamb of God was upon England’s pleasant pastures seen, and the Countenance Divine shone forth among our clouded hills.
What is no less thrilling but actually true is those feet still walk upon England’s mountains green, that the Holy Lamb of God can still be among England’s pleasant pastures seen, and that the Countenance Divine still shines forth among our clouded hills.
We just do not slow down enough to see or recognize him walking beside us.
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you?
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
Visionaries and prophets can always see the one walking beside. Always another walking beside us. Can see the hills around us ringed with angels in chariots and fire. Can see Jacob’s ladder between heaven and Charing Cross, as Francis Thompson saw it, or between Heaven and Oxford. Can see Christ walking on the water, not of Genesareth but the Thames.
Here’s one of my favourite poems by a Christian mystic, Francis Thompson.
The Kingdom of God
“IN NO STRANGE LAND”
O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!
5 Does the ﬁsh soar to ﬁnd the ocean,
The eagle plunge to ﬁnd the air—
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumor of thee there?
Not where the wheeling systems darken,
10 And our benumbed conceiving soars!—
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.
The angels keep their ancient places—
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
15 ’Tis ye, ’tis your estrangéd faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.
But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry—and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
20 Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.
Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry—clinging Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth,
May we always see Him walking beside us.