John Fitzgerald has posted one of his wonderful essay-fictions at Albion Awakening. Here is a taster:
...I was right about that. Jerusalem was a joy to sing. It really was. Our raw but eager voices boomed, echoed and rebounded around the Hall, bringing (for myself at least) a marked sense of release, of vast spaces - inner and outer - opening up.
The melody's dignified, gently rousing lilt soothed and settled my mind while triggering a powerful longing for a depth and quality of being - both individual and collective - which I suddenly and starkly realised I'd wished for more than anything else throughout my young life but had so far only partially experienced, if at all.
Blake's fantastic words - the molten lava of his language - 'countenance divine', 'clouded hills', 'burning gold' - had a poetic and spiritual potency which I had encountered in only a very few places - the Narnia books mainly, plus Roger Lancelyn Green's retellings of Greek, Norse, Egyptian and Arthurian legends.
Mrs. Elms, to be fair, had told a few good stories in this mould too. She was from the West Country and had often held forth about Joseph of Arimathea and how he'd brought the Holy Grail to Glastonbury and planted his staff on Wearyall Hill, bringing forth the miraculous thorn tree which flowers every year on Christmas Day. All these tales played a pivotal role in my life, giving me that mythic, archetypal sustenance which the somewhat desacralised, post-Vatican II Catholicism of my youth believed the world no longer needed.
I was ready for Jerusalem, in other words, and when we sang it that morning it felt like I was coming home - to myself, to God, and to my friends - to that wider mystery I had always dimly perceived and had reached out for through both my reading and my yearning for camaraderie - a double-edged quest for a 'Round Table', if you like - all through my time at St. Catherine's.
'I will not cease from mental fight,' we sang, and the sun smashed through the windows, transforming the Hall into a golden bowl of warmth and light. I've always had a vivid imagination, it's true, but I swear at that moment I heard a voice in my ear. An old man's voice. Foreign. East European or Middle-Eastern. 'Before you leave this school,' it said, 'you will see the Holy Grail.'
I was so shocked that I missed the next line - 'nor shall my sword sleep in my hand' - but made sure I was back on track for the last two - 'till we have built Jerusalem, in England's green and pleasant land.'
It felt, all of a sudden, like a matter of life and death that I should sing those two lines loud and well. If someone had asked me why, I could only have replied, 'the old man expects it of me.' But who that old man was and why he had spoken to me, I had no idea at all....