MORNING HAS BROKEN written in 1931
The birthing of this hymn took many twists and turns.
Originally, this hymn was probably a Gaelic hymn. In the 1880s, a wandering Highland minstrel was singing the tune in Scotland when someone heard it, and put it to music… preserving it. In 1918, a Scottish poet put words to that tune, using the title “Child in the Manger”. In the 1920s, the editor of a British hymnal was looking for a light and happy hymn to sing at the beginning of a new day… and he wanted it sung to that old Gaelic tune.
He asked a well-known writer to put words to that tune. Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965) was a playwright, novelist, and journalist who had been on a long spiritual journey of her own. She was of Jewish descent, but became a believer through the Anglican Church as a teenager… and then dabbled in Spiritism and reincarnation. She lived a Bohemian lifestyle for most of her life… but rededicated her life to Christ through the Catholic Church in her 70s.
Eleanor wrote the words to this tune based on Genesis 1:5; she called it “Thanks For This Day”.
But, the song didn’t become widely known until the 1970s, when Cat Stevens, a pop singer and active Muslim, made a recording of it that went to the top of the secular charts.
It’s a beautiful hymn… a modern-day psalm. But, it has always seemed more spiritual than substantive… much like a “new age” song. The origin story tells us why. Though, if you can imagine singing this hymn while taking a walk through the Garden of Eden on the first morning, it puts this hymn in a different light.
Read this hymn, and – today – pause long enough to greet the day with the spirit this song encourages.
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!
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.
Mine is the sunlight! Mine is the morning,
born of the one light Eden saw play.
Praise with elation! Praise ev’ry morning;
God’s recreation of the new day.