A member of a traditionalist religious congregation that has enjoyed good canonical standing with Rome for a long time sent me an adaptation of the great hymn “Jerusalem” (words by William Blake, set to music by C. Hubert H. Parry), with a commentary, and the prefatory remark: “This Anthem of Holy Defiance is my response to what is going on around us. It inspires action, focus, and perseverance in our common resolve to endure whatever may come. And when things are as they are, surely: it is better to sing!”
This hymn deserves to be added to the choral and congregational repertoire of every traditional Latin Mass community. Let us do as did St. Ambrose, St. Athanasius, St. Louis Marie de Montfort, and many other saints who composed orthodox hymns and encouraged them to be sung, to combat the heresies of their day.
First, the rewritten hymn:
And did those feet in ancient time,
Bring sacred rites to every place,
And was the holy Lamb of God
Adored with consummate embrace?
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth from altar, rood, and choir,
And was the hem of heaven touched
By clouds of incense climbing higher?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire;
Bring me my Spears: 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 Grace restores the Ancient Mass,
And Christ the King rules every land.
Here is the poem set to the melody, which could be printed for congregational singing:
Here are some brothers singing the final two stanzas. (N.B. They have simplified the rhythm a bit.)
You can access a PDF of the sheet music here.
And here is a rousing orchestral performance, with the original words by Blake:
Commentary by a Religious on the Anthem of Holy Defiance
Our founder began our tradition of taking appropriate songs and changing their words to give the song a sacred sense. I claim his authority and present you with a Battle Cry Anthem. It borrows the words and culture of chivalry. It seeks to give an elevated response to the enemies of the old Mass. May it rouse your soul to stand, withstand and endure.
The Anthem is a call to arms. It is a song of defiance against the enemies within the gates of the Holy City. It is holy defiance because it uses military defiance and joins to its language higher meanings and spiritual undertakings. The words are a defiant response to the state of Christendom on the part of souls stirred to militancy.
The opening two stanzas are self-explanatory.
The last two stanzas are dense lines of defiance, evoking the most sacred weapons of war that will arm the soldier of Christ to attain to the goal of this battle for the Ancient Mass, a battle that in turn will issue in the victory of the restoration of Christendom. We comment now on these verses:
Bring me my…
The call to arms of the knight to his courtiers. The Anthem is noble and calls upon high virtue. Spiritually, the soul rouses its lower nature, calling it to more tightly unite with itself by abandoning its minor needs and physical distractions to serve the soul’s higher aspirations, its concentration, its battle-focus.
… bow of burning gold;
The bow is the most powerful weapon, the instrument that attacks from a distance. Here the knight indicates his intention is to invoke the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The bow is the Living Bow nailed to the Cross of Calvary, where the right Hand of Jesus nailed to the crossbar forms an arc along His Arm across his Chest and on along his Left Arm to His nailed Hand. The arc of the bow is turned downwards and is set against the upturned face of the enemy powers of hell.
Set in the center of Living Bow is the Sacred Heart of Jesus all aflame, a vessel of the purest burning gold; gold fire tried, that thou mayest be made rich: fornax ardens caritatis and virtutum omnium abyssus. The Knight invokes the Sacred Heart of our Redeemer, made truly present in the Ancient Mass, and particularly affronted by enemies within the Holy City. Only the Bow of Burning Gold can conquer these foes, feigned custodians of tradition, drawing down against His Light, the dross of demons’ darkness: but lux in tenebris lucet, et tenebrae eam non comprehenderunt. Vivat Jesus Rex noster!
… Arrows of desire.
These are our holy desires. In order to attain we much desire the Ancient Mass with all our mind and heart and strength and will. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.” The Arrows of desire are “calidus – hot” excluding all that is lukewarm and condemned as neither calidus nor frigidus and only fit to emovere.
… My spears: O clouds unfold.
These are our prayers, hot and humble. The prayer of him that humbleth himself, shall pierce the clouds: and till it come nigh he will not be comforted: and he will not depart till the most High behold. If our prayers are humble, if our hearts are burning, the very clouds will be pierced, and our prayers will be answered.
… My chariot of fire.
The chariot is the warrior’s vehicle of fight and flight, his protection against the enemy. It is a reference to the holy scapular of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, the pallium Eliae that fell to the prophet Eliseus from the fiery chariot of Elias. The scapular, as a fiery chariot, lifts us from the earth, connects us with Our Lady and places us under Her protection.
I will not rest from mental fight.
This refers to our prayer having the quality of ‘sine intermissione’ – ‘without ceasing’ – so often mentioned in Holy Writ: Rosary and Mental Prayer set us in the theatre of battle with the devils. We fight distractions. We fight temptations. We fight to have our prayers heard on high. We engage in mental fight when we fast. It is mental fight when we mortify ourselves. The battle must continue if we are to have victory. We must not rest until victory is won. We must persevere. Pray without ceasing. Sine intermissione orate.
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand.
This is a reference to the Most Holy Rosary, the renowned spiritual sword that is responsible for a multitude of victories. Christendom has been saved by this sword on numerous occasions and it will be restored only through the use of this sword. It must not be neglected. Its power must not be doubted.
Till grace restores the Ancient Mass.
This is the primary focus of the Anthem of Holy Defiance. The restoration of the Ancient Mass will be a work of grace brought about by Christ our King, the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and the active participation of the remnant of Christendom.
And Christ the King rules every land.
Until He comes in Glory, this is the overall focus of the Church Militant and Missionary. To make disciples of all nations. To establish or reestablish Christendom. O Sacred Heart, Thy Kingdom come! Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Vivat Jesus Rex noster!
* * *
I told the religious who sent to me the modified “Jerusalem” that the spirit in this poem reminded me of a great hymn by Fr. Ronald Knox (1888–1957):
O English hearts, what heart can know
how spent with labours long ago
was England’s Church that bore you?
The Paths you tread in lane or street,
long since were trodden by the feet
of saints that went before you;
When priests, like sudden angels, came
to light in distant shires the flame
that faith’s dull embers cherished,
when Mass and shrift were sought for still
in silent farm, on lonely hill,
ere ancient memories perished.
Their kindred and their homes forgot,
the traitor’s name, the wanderer’s lot
for all their portion choosing;
God’s hungry sheep they toiled to save,
the peace that only exile gave
for love of Christ refusing:
Till, late or early, go they must
(who not in princes put their trust)
where earthly justice waited;
From rack and dungeon, freed at last,
the hurdle’s way, to death they passed,
from death to life translated.
O saints of English speech and race,
caught up to heaven, of heavenly grace
a double portion send us;
From faint resolves and mean desires
and all this languid age inspires
of worldly aims, defend us!
And, if such influence love can earn,
O bid the faith you loved return,
the land you love awakening;
An England sunk in long despair
to holier thoughts, sublimer prayer,
and larger hopes awaking.
The four-part harmony for the Knox may be found here. If someone prepares a score with the words, please submit it to OnePeterFive so that we may publish it for the use of parishes and chapels.
Dr. Peter Kwasniewski is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and The Catholic University of America. He taught at the International Theological Institute in Austria, the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Austria Program, and Wyoming Catholic College, which he helped establish in 2006. Today he is a full-time writer and speaker on traditional Catholicism who has written many books and publishes on a wide variety of sites. His work has been translated into twenty languages. Visit his personal website at www.peterkwasniewski.com, his Substack “Tradition and Sanity,” his publishing house Os Justi Press, and his composer site CantaboDomino.