This famous hymn was originally written in 1804 by William Blake as part of a longer poem called Milton: A poem in two books and it was set to music by Hubert Parry in 1916 in an attempt to lift spirits during the war, proving an instant success. The music was commissioned by the poet Laureate Robert Bridges who instructed Parry that the music should match the simplicity of the poem’s stanzas and should be simple enough for audiences to ‘take up the tune and sing along’. He certainly achieved this as many people now regard this piece of music as an unofficial national anthem for England and it was popularised further when adopted as part of The Last Night of the Proms in the 1950’s. It is sung at sporting events, royal weddings and WI meetings and the final words referring to ‘England’s green and pleasant land’ explains the sense of patriotism that this hymn seems to have evoked.
Vicky Moran, 2nd Violin