Monday, January 19, 2015

Dark Satanic Mills?

click photo to enlarge
"And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?"
from the poem, "And did those feet in ancient time", by the English poet, William Blake (1757-1827)

The poem quoted above is widely loved by the English, particularly when sung to the tune written by Sir Hubert Parry, and commonly called "Jerusalem". It is built on the story that Jesus visited England - Glastonbury in particular - in his youth, accompanied by Joseph of Arimathea. Blake contrasts the England of the time of such a visit with the rapidly industrializing England of 1804 (when the poem was written), and the England that could and should be.

His disparaging of the "dark Satanic Mills" has been attributed to his dislike of the Albion Flour Mill, one of the first large, factories built in London, in Southwark, near where Blake lived. Opinion on the new buildings of industry were divided between those who saw them as efficient parts of a burgeoning economy that brought wealth and employment, and those who saw them as inhuman, unholy places with their dirty, dangerous work, child labour and long hours. But, there are other theories about what Blake meant, including the idea that he was referring to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, institutions that promulgated a religion he thought very different from the one he espoused.

Whatever his meaning, it was Blake I thought of when, on a darkening day I took this photograph of the distant Palm Paper mill at King's Lynn, Norfolk, from near the quayside in the town. The massive structure with its chimneys, cloudy plumes and looming bulk, put me in mind of his words, and also made me recall another photograph I took in 2013 of an industrial subject - Melton Ross chalk quarries in Lincolnshire.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 37.1mm (100mm - 35mm equiv.) - cropped
F No: f4.9
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  - 0.3EV
Image Stabilisation: On