Avebury, Wiltshire

Jerusalem, the Emanation of the Giant Albion

'It is all so immense,' said Miranda. 'I mean the stones, and the ditch and the bank. And Silbury Hill! It took generations of people to build it, apparently.'

The Giant Albion,' said Quintin.'

'I wish I understood Blake's poetry.'

'Some say that he was tapping into the collective unconscious of the nation at the time.'

'That's why it all sounds so muddled,' said Miranda, gazing from the lay-by towards Silbury Hill. 'I mean, what's Jerusalem all about? That's a city in Israel, isn't it? Or Palestine.'

'The New Jerusalem is in the Book of Revelation. It's like a metaphor I think, for something to strive for, something to look forward to. Something to recapture and also to build anew. For Blake it was a female, like a goddess. The emanation of the Giant Albion. Something to strive for. That's what he was feeling.

'But wasn't he always going on about the Bible?'

'Yes, but it was his own interpretation of it. He even started to write a Bible of Hell once. He wasn't a Satanist, he just wanted to completely reinterpret religious orthodoxy, and it was going to be opposite to much that was then, so he called it the Bible of Hell. But then that work sort of morphed into the poem and illustrations for Milton, and then the poem and plates for Jerusalem.

'Here's a bit from Milton, listen:

From Golgonooza the spiritual Four-fold London eternal,
In immense labours and sorrows, ever building, ever falling,
Through Albion's four forests which overspread all the Earth
From London Stone to Blackheath east: to Hounslow west:
To Finchley north: to Norwood south: and the weights
Of Enitharmon's Loom play lulling cadences on the winds of Albion
From Caithness in the north to Lizard-point and Dover in the south,
Loud sounds the Hammer of Los and loud his bellows is heard
Before London to Hampstead's breadths and Highgate's heights, to
Stamford and old Bow and across to the Gardens of Kensington…


'Another goddess. There are four of them, paired with four gods. Well, sort of gods. Los and Enitharmon were one of those pairs. And the weights of Enitharmon's Loom play lulling cadences on the winds of Albion. Doesn't she sound like one of the goddesses that Odysseus encontered, weaving a web of destiny? On the islands he visited as he sailed the terrifying 'Sea of the Afterlife'? Circe and Calypso? And listen to how Milton goes on:

'The Surrey hills glow like the clinkers of the furnace; Lambeth's Vale
'Where Jerusalem's foundations began, where they were laid in ruins,
'Where they were laid in ruins from every nation, and oak groves rooted
'Dark gleams before the furnace-mouth a heap of burning ashes.
'When shall Jerusalem return and overspread all the Nations?
'Return, return to Lambeth's Vale, O building of human souls!
Thence stony Druid Temples overspread the Island white,
'And thence from Jerusalem's ruins, from her walls of salvation,
'And praise, through the whole Earth were reared from Ireland
'To Mexico and Peru west, and east to China and Japan, till Babel
'The Spectre of Albion frowned over the Nations in glory and war.
'All things begin and end in Albion's ancient Druid rocky shore:
'But now the Starry Heavens are fled from the mighty limbs of Albion.
Loud sounds the Hammer of Los, loud turn the Wheels of Enitharmon:
Her Looms vibrate with soft affections, weaving the Web of Life
Out from the ashes of the Dead…'

'The goddess Jerusalem is in ruins. The Spectre of Albion is abroad, not Albion himself. A spectre isn't the real thing, and it's that which is causing the evils of war. The Stony Druid Temples sound rather like the churches of his day. He wants to revert to what was before. His mind is seizing upon oak groves and druid temples, but he wants to go before even them, back to an ideal world that once existed.

'One with the stone circles we just saw?'

Well, fast-forward a decade in Blake's art and hear Jerusalem lamenting:

The hills of Judea are fallen with me into the deepest hell.
Away from the Nations of the Earth and from the cities of the nations
I walk to Ephraim. I seek for Shiloh. I walk like a lost sheep
Among precipaces of despair; in Goshan I seek for light
In vain, and in Gilead for a physician and comforter.
Goshan hath followed Philistea. Gilead hath joined with Og.
They are become narrow places in a little dark land,
How distant far from Albion! his hills and his valleys no more
Receive the feet of Jerusalem: they have cast me quite away,
And Albion is himself shrunk to a narrow rock in the midst of the sea!
The plains of Sussex and Surrey, their hills of flocks and herds
No more seek to Jerusalem nor to the sound of my Holy-ones.
The fifty-two Counties of England are hardened against me
As if I were not their mother; they despise me and cast me out.
London covered the whole Earth: England encompassed the Nations
And all the Nations of the Earth were seen in the cities of Albion.
My pillars reached from sea to sea. London beheld me come
From my east and from my west; he blessed me and gave
His children to my breasts, his sons and daughters to my knees.
His aged parents sought me out in every city and village;
They discerned my countenance with joy, they showed me to their sons,
Saying, 'Lo Jerusalem is here! she sitteth in our secret chambers…'
Albion gave me the whole Earth to walk up and down, to pour
Joy upon every mountain, to teach songs to the shepherd and plowman.…
But now I am closed out from them in the narrow passages
Of the valleys of destruction into a dark land of pitch and bitumen…

'It's not very clear,' interrupted Miranda.

'But that's what I think it was,' said Quintin. 'Automatic writing. The collective unconscious breaking through. Blake was intending to write his own Bible, and he was trying to use the techniques of the prophets to do so.' Quintin tapped his smartphone once more:

…a sublime allegory, which is now perfectly completed into a Grand Poem. I may praise it, since I dare not pretend to be any other than the Secretary; the Authors are in Eternity.

Excerpts from the illuminated books Milton and Jerusalem, by William Blake, and from one of his letters. First excerpt: Milton, Book the First, plate 6, lines 1–10. Second excerpt: Milton, Book the First, plate 6, lines 14–29. Third excerpt: Jerusalem: the Emanation of the Giant Albion, Chapter 4, plate 79, lines 8–29, lines 36–7 and 60–1. Fourth excerpt: from a letter to Thomas Butts, dated 6 July 1803.

Navigate the tunnel

large conical hill towering behind a winding main road Standing stones in bright sunlight against distant houses two huge prehistoric standing stones in front of a thatched building standing stones curving away into the distance, with sheep. megalithic stones against a dazzling sky