Jason Whittaker’s description of the cultural battle that engulfed Parry’s and Wallen’s setting of Blake’s poem Jerusalem (Anti-empire, anti-fascist, pro-suffragist: the stunning secret life of Proms staple Jerusalem, 5 September) is troubling for lefty liberals like me. In claiming the hymn for the left, I have to reject the pomp and circumstance of the patriotic version so loved by those on the right. Blake’s remarkable creativity was driven by visions. Complexity doesn’t fit easily with patriotism, a state of mind grounded in simple choices, my country right or wrong. In Blake’s view, wrong. Yet his words are now wrapped in the flag.
William Barnes, a contemporary of Blake, offers us lefties a cleaner form of patriotism, respect for the freedom the working man. In his poem My Orcha’d in Linden Lea, Barnes describes the traditional life of the rural labourer free from the grind of the industrial towns. Vaughan Williams set the poem to music as Linden Lea in 1901. The inclusion of Linden Lea in the Last Night programme would have been a welcome challenge to tradition.
Child Okeford, Dorset
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