Danish: I østen stiger solen opp
Norwegian: I østen stiger solen opp
Swedish: I öster stiger solen opp
Bernhard Severin Ingemann (1789-1862) Christopher Ernst Frederik Weyse (1774-1842)
1. The eastern sky is growing light,
The golden sun is up.
We see it rise against the night
From ev'ry mountain top.
2. It rises from that lovely shore,
We know as Paradise.
It brings us light and life and more
To light each persons' eyes.
3. It greets us with its lovely smile
From Eden's dawning glow
Where one tree's fruit grew undefiled,
The pow'r of life o'erflowed
4. It greets us from life’s source and home
From where God’s light came down
Into the star of Bethlehem
Which eastern sages found.
5. And as God's Sun comes from the east
And gives its light to earth
A glimpse, the light of Paradise
God's image came to birth.
6. And all the stars are rising far
When th'eastern sun goes down
They seem to be like all the stars
That shone on Bethl'hem's town.
7. God sends the sun from heav'n with love,
So ev'ry one may see
A ray of paradise above,
How lovely that will be!
8. Oh, sun of suns from Bethlehem
We give you thanks and praise
For every gleam from light’s great home
And from your paradise.
Tr. Gracia Grindal
Ingemann wrote this hymn to be sung in school on Wednesday mornings. When we hear these morning and evening songs we can see how important the notion of singing a hymn at the beginning and ending of the day was. They have become some of the treasures of the hymnal, but because we do not sing hymns in the schools, or not much in the home, they have declined in significance.
As a teacher at the Sorø Academy, Ingemann had the chance to see how these hymns worked with students. When the church was part of the state in Europe, the schools quite naturally had a time of devotions at the beginning and end of the day. As that began to decline the hymns declined as well.
Britt G. Hallqvist came to be interested in writing hymns partly because she was fascinated by the language of an old Lutheran hymn they sang frequently for morning devotions in her Swedish school.
The key to this hymn is the East—that is where the light comes from. All light comes from the “home” of light—God’s Paradise. Light marks the great events in history that revealed the light. Creation, when God spoke and there was light, in Eden where light shone from the tree in the middle of the garden, from the light of the dawn that reveals paradise, to the light in the star of Bethlehem, which is mentioned a couple of times in the hymn. Those are all places where we as created beings can get a sense for the great light which is the source of all light. As in all revelation from God, we as human beings can only get brief glimpses of the God who is light.
Those of us who have grown up in northern climes are known for our love and hunger for the light. In fact, the entire calendar of our northern Christian festivities is built around where the sun is—Christmas, when the sun is weakest brings us the light of Christ shown first to us in the star of Bethlehem that brought sages from the east to the crib of the Savior, the Light of the World. St. John’s Eve, when the sun is highest in the heavens, points to the coming one whom John was sent to announce. We long for the light in the spring as the equinox approaches and grieve its disappearance when the days begin to darken.
These are parables for the way we long for the light of Christ, the light of the World. Without the sun there would be no life on earth; without the light of Christ, we would have no hope. That hope comes to us whether it is dark or light in nature, or in our own psyches. Times are tough right now in the US given the uncertainty about the election and COVID-19. But Scripture tells us, and we know it to be true, the light shines in the darkness and nothing can put it out.
Because the hymn was intended for worship on Wednesday, Wodin’s Day, Ingemann probably meant to show that Christ was the new light. It was published first in 1837 in a collection called Morning Songs for Children. From there it became part of the Danish and Norwegian treasury of hymns for the morning. It has three well known melodies. The most common tune is by C. E. F. Weyse, who wrote "O Day Full of Grace." The one by Niels Gade, who used it as a choral anthem as part of a Cantata Elverskud (1854), is popular for choirs. The Swedes translated it later and use a tune by Oskar Lindberg that is well loved.
Weyse’s tune/Gallanthus Nivalis https://youtu.be/s_RX7OPOcDw
Matthias Hedegaard, Else Torp, Marie Rørbeck, piano
Iver Kleive, Povl Dissing, Knut Reiersrud
Simon Pedersen/nice church bells at the beginning
Gade's tune: in Elverskud Aarhus' concert choir and orchestra
Swedish melody by Oskar Lindberg Sven-Olof Axelsson