I came across this gorgeous picture of a dandelion at daybreak this morning. It reminded me of how, as a child I deeply connected with the song “Morning has Broken“. Most of us know the version by the British folk singer-songwriter Cat Stevens, who now calls himself Yusuf Islam and is now also an educator, philanthropist, and prominent convert to Islam. It is not unusual that songs are accredited to the artist who made them popular.
Most people don’t realize however, that the beautiful words to “Morning Has Broken” were penned by the English author Eleanor Farjeon who wrote children’s and fantasy stories and was both popular with children and adults. In 1931 she was commissioned by a local vicar who was compiling a new edition of the hymnbook “Songs of Praise. He asked Farjeon to write a poem to the melody of a traditional Gaelic tune, known as “Bunessan“composed in the Scottish Highlands. It actually shares the melody with the 19th century Christmas Carol “Child in the Manger”. The vicar wanted a hymn about creation, but not necessarily specifically Christian.
Here are her original lyrics:
Morning has Broken
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 every morning,
Of the new day.
With its rich imagery of rain, dewfall, sunlight, blackbirds, grass and “the wet garden”, the focus of the three verses is not so much the Creation as the Garden of Eden. I think that’s why so many people of different cultures connect with the song. It has a spiritual and uplifting message that is centered around gratitude that lies in praising the little things, the small wonders and beauty.
Cat Stevens recording of the song –that was included on his 1971 album Teaser and the Firecat – reached number six on the US pop chart and number one on the US easy listening chart in 1972. He has obviously always been a spiritual (and now religious person) which is perhaps why he was able to convey it emotionally so well and why the song became identified with Stevens.
Here are the lyrics to his version the song:
Morning Has Broken
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 every morning
God’s recreation of the new day
Since I was raised Methodist and attended a Quaker nursery, I can’t remember which version I heard first – the traditional hymn that is often sung in children’s services or the interpretation by Cat Stevens. I just remember lying on my bed in London, early in the morning with the song going around in my head and wishing that one day I would be able to write a song that would touch someone in a similar way that song always touched me.
We’ll see. My album The World I Am Livings In is so close to being finished and all of the songs are very personal. I just hope, one or the other tune will move you…
© Sharon Johnstone, Macro Dew Drops
Here’s a very personal playlist inspired by Morning has Broken