2. Pageantmaster [KJS to Coventry] wrote:
have y’all noticed that many of the written articles totally ignore the hymns so beautifully sung by the little children in the beginning of the ceremony? Danny Boyle framed Britain as a Christian country and this was lost on the American media.
Spot on. I have been thinking about the opening ceremony, and it is clear to me that it wasn’t a question of a few hymns - two sets at least. No - the whole thing was Christian. Not necessarily in a standard form, but that of William Blake, and in particular his poem ‘Jerusalem’. The clue was in the emphasis on the film ‘Chariots of Fire’ by that other Christian visionary, Colin Welland, and its overtly Christian message.
Consider the scene at the start: a green field with a green hill at one end [Jerusalem, the holy hill?] on which the flags were planted by the national flagbearers, ascending it one after another. On an 18th/early 19th Century pre-industrial green land, there were sheep, people walking about, playing cricket, generally looking like contented bucolic types:
And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
Then came the Industrial Revolution, the turf was torn up, massive building was undertaken and steel mill towers rose out of the whole directed by top hatted Victorian industrialists. Peace and tranquility was replaced by downtrodden hopeless industrial workers covered with coal dust and laboring away:
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Then channels of fire were poured and spread into rings, which the workers then hammered like molten steel. Only at the end did the point of this become apparent when the mill towers sank back into the ground and the molten rings were lifted into the sky to become a fiery set of Olympic rings and volleys of rockets fired into the sky. Then came the rather ethereal and beautiful winged figures on bicycles out of darkness which rose into the sky.
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!
What happened then? Quietly the industrial landscape had retreated and the grass had returned. The Olympics were opened: the flag was taken to the holy hill, Jerusalem and taken by a party of flagbearers all of whom had been involved in the fight for justice, peace or liberty [Mohamed Ali, Rita Shakrabati of the pressure group Liberty, and Doreen [I think] Lawrence who had fought for justice for her murdered son and for a change in policing. The flag was then collected by the guard and raised on the holy hill. Then the torch arrived and instead of being handed to one runner, it was passed on to a group of the next generation [the passing on of the baton, the legacy, the fight], past the holy hill and than taken to the petals each team had brought in and now forming part of a huge structure of stems which when lit individually raised to eventually become one united flame.
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land
So the theme was that of the possibility of restoring peace and justice in the land.
But it is not simply a question of getting rid of the intervening worldly industrialised and oppressed world, it is much more complicated than that and the key is in William Blake and the multilayered meaning of his world view. What is the point of the children in beds, the innocents and the childhood alternative worlds of storybook heroes and threats, Mary Poppins and the nightmare Dementors?
It is a Blakean theme, that one starts with a state of Innocence, a passive good state but not one that goes anywhere, then things happen, one gains the knowledge of good and evil, power as in The Tiger, and corruption and out of that Experience comes Wisdom, the ability to differentiate between them and for the world to be mature and restored.
So I would say it is a very strongly Christian themed ceremony, but much more deeply it is a Blake-inspired vision by someone who has gone into and studied ‘Jerusalem’ with some care.
From what I can gather Danny Boyle was raised a Catholic and was an altar boy although it is not clear that he identifies as a Christian. But the story he told is a Christian story of a Christian country and with a Christian vision of the history and the future of that country, and for that matter the world, seen through the eyes of William Blake.
That is my best guess, anyway.
Some days I sit and think. Other days I just sit!!
July 29, 10:43 pm | [comment link]