HYMN 134 Morning Has Broken
German: Schön ist der Morgen
Norwegian: Nå er det morgon
Text: Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965). Tune: Gaelic (Isle of Mull)
1. Morning has broken Like the first morning, Blackbird has spoken Like the first bird. Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning! Praise for them, springing Fresh from the Word!
2. Sweet the rain’s new fall Sunlit from Heaven, Like the first dewfall On the first grass. Praise for the sweetness Of the wet garden, Sprung in completeness Where his feet pass.
3. Mine is the sunlight, Mine is the morning, Born of the one light Eden saw play. Praise with elation, Praise every morning, God’s re-creation Of the new day!
Hymns for the times of day and the seasons of the year, something especially Protestants wrote for family home devotions, seem to have faded in the American hymn writing scene. I attribute this to an over concentration on hymns for Sunday morning. The number of hymns written to fit the new lectionaries and new liturgies pouring forth from the presses is overwhelming. Only recently have hymn writers begun to turn their attention to something other than those occasions which is good since Christians also should be stressing that faith lives out its vocation during the week, not just Sunday morning.
Cat Stevens, now a Muslim who took the name Yusef Islam. knew this song from his upbringing in England. The child of a Greek Cypriot father, Greek Orthodox, and Swedish Baptist mother, he absorbed the musical culture of the folk rock period in England and America at the time. He was a fairly successful composer/performer, writing, for example, the sound track to the cult movie, Harold and Maude. When asked to start out a recording session for what became his breakthrough album, Catch Bull at Four, he began doodling around with this tune and text. Not sure about its worth, he was persuaded to record it. The album was a sensation. This song particularly. It was a number one hit for several weeks in 1972 in the US and four weeks in Norway, and many other countries around the world. Its Gaelic tune certainly contributes to its popularity—those tunes have world wide appeal—but also the freshness of the text.
Comparing the new morning to the first day of creation seems to freshen up every morning.. It fills one's heart with praise. For the past week I have been at our lake place near Lutsen, Minnesota. Today at sunrise, I awakened to a mirror like lake reflecting the trees and skies perfectly. Not a ripple disturbing it. I was glad to have the words of Miss Farjeon to describe it. All of the images from Eden obtained this morning. Even the notion of the new garden where plants and flowers spring everywhere the Lord steps as he takes his walk in the cool of the evening in Eden.
Morning as the breaking of new light into the darkness is one of the frequent images for the new creation, the new world, heaven. Although I am not a morning person, these images transport me. Most people, especially from Northern climes, love the light—the magic of summer light cannot be missed. And the darkness of the winter makes one long for light. It cheers our spirits; without it many people suffer SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder. One of the treatments is light. it changes the mood of one's body.
Our relationship to the light of the world, Jesus Christ, is like that, a treatment for our being lost in darkness and sin. As all of the hymns for morning and evening, from the early chants for the Daily Hours of the Monastic tradition, to these hymns, Jesus is our sunlight when it is light, he is our light guiding us through the dark. He is the bright and morning star whom we praise morning, noon, and night, for keeping us on the way toward him, where day is eternal and we will be singing songs of light. So of course, in the early dawn when the day is still unsullied and seemingly as pure as Eden, our hearts break forth in joy: "Praise with elation,/Praise every morning,/God’s re-creation/Of the new day!"
Eleanor Farjeon was a gifted writer and poet, especially of children’s verse. She was born in London to a literary family. In poor health, with weak eyesight, she spent much of her early years at home. She wrote many chidlren's books such as Martin Pippin in the Apple Orchard, her most famous book, and a collection of children’s verse, Nursery Rhymes of London Town. During WWI she and her family moved to Sussex where the rural scenes and life made a great impression on her. She was part of the post war literary scene and friends with many writers at the time, among them D. H. Lawrence and Robert Frost. After the war she continued writing as a poet, journalist and reporter for the BBC. Percy Dearmer, the editor of a hymnal Songs of Praise, asked her to write a morning song to the Gaelic tune Bunessan. She did so.
She joined the Roman Catholic church in 1951. Until her death she continued writing, especially for children, and won many important literary prizes, among them the first Hans Christian Andersen Medal in 1956.
Northwestern University Choir https://youtu.be/2wzMqtbubzs