Chariots of Fire & Jerusalem

(“Chariots of Fire,” Vangelis, 1981) (“Jerusalem,” William Blake 1804-1810).
Sprinting into the 1981 academy awards with seven nominations, Chariots of Fire has been an enduring inspiration about champions Eric Liddell's and Harold Abrahams' journeys  to Paris for the 1924 Olympics. The athletes' hurdles go beyond the track as Liddell is torn between running and God and Abrahams faces anti-Semitism. While much of the movie’s inspiration comes from watching these men succeed, even those who have not watched the film have likely been influenced by it. Earning the film best original score, the theme song has become widely used to dramatize scenes in various movies and has made the playlists of runners and beginning musician. Composed by Vangelis, the title score uses classic instruments and modern synthesizers and plays during the opening and closing scene in which the Olympians of Great Britain run barefoot on the shores of Broadstairs. 

The film’s working title was “Running,” but after screen writer Colin Welland watched Songs of Praise, a TV show that featured “Jerusalem,” he changed the title to Chariots of Fire, a line from the song. Written by William Blake for the preface of Milton (1804-1810) and later put to music by Sir Hubert Parry to boost the morale, “Jerusalem” gained popularity and is considered an unofficial anthem. While it is hard to imagine Blake, an anti-monarchist who was put on trial for sedition, agreeing to use his verse for a national anthem, it is impossible to deny the verse’s power to spark revolution in the soul of its listener/reader, which is perhaps why “Jerusalem” is sung as a hymn in the scene just before the closing credits and the second time the audience watch the Olympians run on the shore of Broadstairs.

Blake’s Elijah About to Ascend in the Chariot of Fire (1795)

"Jerusalem"/"And did those feet in ancient time"
By William Blake

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England's 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 England's green & pleasant Land