Pastures Green and Dark Satanic Mills


William Blake, Milton a Poem (London, 1804-1811). Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery

With the exhibition Pastures Green and Dark Satanic Mills: The British Passion for Landscape opening this weekend at the Princeton University Art Museum, we were looking for the exact origin of the title phrase.

As curator Betsy Rosasco writes, “In his preface to Milton (ca. 1804–10), the poet William Blake praises England’s “mountains green” and “pleasant pastures” and alludes to the legendary sanctification of British soil through a visit by the child Jesus with Joseph of Arimathea, said to have been a tin merchant by trade, to Glastonbury. This poem ends with a challenge to create a New Jerusalem, or ideal paradise, among the “dark Satanic mills” that already loomed in Blake’s day.”
milton.a.p2.100According to the Blake archive, there are only two copies of Milton a Poem, with this preface: copy A, c. 1811 (British Museum, seen above) and copy B, c. 1811 (Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery, seen below).
Here’s the transcription:

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

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 Englands green & pleasant Land.

Would to God that all the Lords people
were Prophets. Numbers XI. Ch 29. v.

The Princeton University Library holds the pochoir facsimile of copy D (Rosenwald Collection): William Blake (1757-1827). Milton: a poem in 12 [i.e. 2] books (Boissa, Clairvaux, Jura, France: Trianon Press; London: Distributed by B. Quaritch, [1967]. Rare Books: Oversize (Exov) 3631.3.364

To hear the version by Billy Bragg: