One of our favourite funeral hymns is ‘And did those feet in ancient times’, otherwise known as ‘Jerusalem’.
The text is from a short poem by William Blake, written in 1804 and published in 1808. The poem featured in the preface to his epic ‘Milton-a Poem’, one of a collection of writings known as the ‘Prophetic Books’. The most common interpretation of the poem is that a visit by Jesus would briefly create heaven in England, in contrast to the ‘dark Satanic Mills’ of the Industrial Revolution.
Composed by Sir Hubert Parry, written in 1916. In 1918 the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) adopted ‘Jerusalem’ as the Women Voters’ Hymn. After women had gained the right to vote the copyright to the hymn was signed over to The Women’s Institute, where it remained until it entered the public domain in 1968.
Famous uses of the hymn include:
- At the end of The Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall
- At the end of the Labour Party Conference
- At the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton
- At the opening ceremony of The 2012 Summer Olympics in London
- It’s also a popular hymn for film soundtracks including:
- Chariots of Fire
- Four Weddings and a Funeral
- The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
- Calendar Girls
- Start Trek: Deep Space Nine
And many more
‘Jerusalem’s’ popularity is largely due to the wonderful tune by Parry. Known as a ‘good sing’, it’s a rousing, uplifting hymn that carries the singers along. As the hymn has been very popular since 1917 it is embedded in the psyche of many. Even if you have not sung it before, it’s surprising how much you know once you begin to sing it!
In a funeral service, ‘Jerusalem’ is most suitable as an exit hymn, so everyone leaves the funeral on a positive uplifting note. It’s also only 2 verses long making it ideal for short funeral services and crematorium services.
We enjoy singing this and have a version recorded just to remind you what a wonderful tune it is; have a listen.