Bring Me My Chariot of Fire
Bring Me My Chariot of Fire is the last line of the third verse of Jerusalem and was written at a time (circa 1808) when the world’s first steam locomotives were being developed. Blake has talked about the Dark Satanic Mills which is generally perceived to be a reference to the industrialisation that was taking place in Great Britain at the time. Taking our own location in Shropshire where the ironmaking processes were developed, the world’s first iron bridge cast and erected and the bestowed title “Birthplace of Industry”. We note that in 1803 efforts were already being made by Richard Trevithick to develop a steam locomotive for Coalbrookdale (now Ironbridge).
Although technical details of Trevithick’s Coalbrookdale locomotive remain sketchy with only drawings of it preserved at the London Science Museum we have to assume that as a learned man, William Blake was aware of it when he wrote Jerusalem. One blaring obvious feature that this locomotive would have required is a fire in order to generate the steam used to propel it thus making it in effect a Chariot of Fire.
Of course much has changed since William Blake wrote Jerusalem, however modern internal combustion engines still derive their power from fire thus the concept Chariot of Fire remains as relevant and valid for The Jerusalem Gallery today as it did for William Blake 200 years ago. The Jerusalem Gallery uses this line in Jerusalem to allow the inclusion of any vehicle whether it is tied to the land, waterborne or airborne with an internal combustion engine in our collection of limited edition images.
The argument could of course be extended to cover external combustion, for example recent attempts to fly a solar powered aeroplane across the USA rely on the burning of the sun to provide power for the solar cells. It is also the heat of the sun combined with the axial rotation of our planet that generates wind energy, tidal power, ocean currents and ocean waves thus it could be argued that even environmentally sound renewable energy sources come from the combustion at the sun. Therefore even the greenest vehicles could be put under the banner of chariots of fire. Although we have not used this analogy in our work, as a 21st century business we could use it if battery and solar powered vehicles take over from the internal combustion engines that we know today.