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Bridges had taken Blake's poem for an anthology he was preparing of patriotic verse for use in that time of war and he sent it to Parry to ask whether he might set it to music and create a song for the Fight for Right movement, to "brace the spirit of the nation", that it might "accept with cheerfulness all the sacrifices necessary". This was less than four months before the Battle of the Somme, and Parry — whose patriotism and public spirit had never been called into question — seems from the start to have been in two minds about the cause for which he was asked to write. Even before 20,000 British men died in one day, on July 1, 1916, there were deep-seated doubts about the carnage that was being inflicted on the country. Parry was uneasy about a blanket endorsement of further such suffering, but wrote the tune nevertheless. Not the least aspect of the appeal of "Jerusalem" is the lack of bombast, and the undertones of sadness and longing that are shot through it. I have always taken it that this tone is very much the result of the frame of mind Parry was in about the attitude he was being required to endorse.

By May 1917 Parry's doubts had become convictions, and he asked Fight for Right not to use his tune any more. This was a blow to them because it had become almost instantly popular; however, such were the words that the song could be used for a variety of purposes and to fit with any number of ideologies. The women's suffrage movement took it up, and Millicent Garrett Fawcett asked Parry if the song might be included in a pro-suffrage benefit concert in March 1918. He was delighted at the prospect, and subsequently agreed to a suggestion that the song should become the Women's Suffrage Hymn, and should be known by the name "Jerusalem". Parry assigned the copyright to the suffragists, who in turn passed it on to the Women's Institutes.

His original arrangement of the words was for voices and organ, but when the song was needed for the suffrage concert he arranged it for orchestra. The orchestral setting one normally hears is Elgar's, made for a big orchestra in 1922: lavish, pompous and overwhelming in its dynamic. Parry's own orchestration is more spare — there is a particularly fine recording of it on Chandos, conducted by Neeme Järvi and with Amanda Roocroft as the soprano soloist — and closer not only to his original intentions, but to the spirit of the man. "Jerusalem" is no longer what it briefly originally was — an exhortation to tolerate slaughter in the interests of the triumph of Britain. It has evolved into a heartfelt, and refreshingly understated, expression of English national feeling, embodying Christian English values, and suffused with a sunlit optimism. The nobility of the song is peerless. As a statement of the English ideal in culture, this particular marriage of words and music is likely to remain unsurpassed.

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