Tuesday 17th August 2021 – As I look westerly from my office window, on the horizon the imposing Pennine Hills stare back at me. Views of this magnificent geological landmass a bequest to generations of my ancestors for as long as I’d forebears living in Leeds.
Well, I suppose, not exactly like my forebears. After all, if they were facing east an altogether flatter topographical landscape would’ve provided the view. Those sights perhaps including Selby, or maybe York. Not to mention if they’d bloody good eyesight, a clear day and they were stood hundreds of feet above sea level, maybe even Hull.
Unkinder folk who question the aesthetics of the city, though, maybe suggest if my ancestors couldn’t make out Hull from West Yorkshire they’d have dodged a bullet.
Perhaps I should be less stinging in my assessment of the city on the Humber Estuary whose name rhymes with bull. After all, my unkind stereotypical appraisal of the town isn’t bore from any informed knowledge of the place. Apart from once picking someone up following completion of their naval cadet exams at a sea faring establishment, I’ve never even been to the place.
Around a decade ago, during family tree research I identified my paternal great grandmother and her family originated from Hessle, close to Hull…. Actually, with this in mind, it appears I wasn’t completely wide of the mark earlier when alluding to eastward looking forebears would’ve been able to see Hull.
Anyhow, as probably no-one cares if my forebears could, or couldn’t, see the Humberside city from where they resided I’ll move on.
Looking out at the Pennines from my office window, thoughts of William Blake’s lyrics from the hymn Jerusalem swirl untethered around my cranial corridors. The rugged hills, strewn with Yorkshire stone buildings on my horizon manifesting notions of the London-born poet’s verse:-
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountain green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?
That being said, the mills of which Blake spoke weren’t the buildings which drove Britain’s burgeoning textile industry in the late 18th century, and later through its Victorian pomp. Industrial strides of which West Yorkshire played a significant role.
It is written southerner William Blake, a radical Christian, was alluding to orthodox churches of the establishment when referring to dark satanic mills, not the northern working class factories manifesting from the industrial revolution.
Regardless of this, though, the mention of England’s mountains green, pleasant pastures, the countenance divine and holy Lamb of God oft leads to my romantic evocations of Blake’s prose.
After all, the area of whom I’m equating the lyrics (my distant landscape as I write) is mountainous, green, pleasant and known by all of us Tykes as ‘God’s own county’…… Without knowing it, or intending to do so, William Blake summing up the Pennines perfectly in that one stirring verse of Jerusalem.
Anyhow, to close, I’ll leave you with a few more lines of Blake’s wonderful sonnet which’s in contemporary times has become an unofficial national anthem for our nation:-
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant Land