Posted by: rcottrill | July 15, 2010

Today in 1814 – Edward Caswall Born

Edward Caswall is best known as a translator of ancient Latin and German hymns, though he did occasionally write song texts of his own. (The carol Sleep, Holy Babe is one of his.) Caswall was the son of distinguished clergyman in the Church of England, and brother of another. He is said to have had a loving concern for the poor, the sick and afflicted, and for little children. Eventually, Mr. Caswall became a Roman Catholic.

One of Edward Caswall’s best known translations is of the eighteenth century German hymn Beim Fruhen Morgenlicht (meaning At the Early Morning Light).  Originally known in English as “A Christian Greeting,” it is now called When Morning Gilds the Skies. The tune was written by Joseph Barnby.

Like the Levites of old who were to “stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at evening” (I Chron. 23:30), we are fulfilling a sacred duty when we bathe our days in praise to God. It is both an act of devotion and a witness to others. “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful” (Ps. 147:1).

When morning gilds the skies my heart awaking cries:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer, to Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Does sadness fill my mind? A solace here I find,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Or fades my earthly bliss? My comfort still is this,
May Jesus Christ be praised!

The night becomes as day when from the heart we say:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
The powers of darkness fear when this sweet chant they hear:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

(2) Today in 1828 – Josiah Alwood Born
Alwood was one of a hardy band of circuit-riding preachers. He traveled on horseback through Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, visiting small isolated churches. Since he often had to traverse creeks and swamps, and ride through the driving rain, Alwood sometimes would arrive, and stand in the pulpit to preach, in his wet clothing.

One night in 1879 Josiah Kelly Alwood was returning after midnight from a meeting, riding through a rainstorm, and he saw a rainbow–a rare thing at night. The next day, still awed by his experience, he wrote the words for the gospel song The Unclouded Day. He created a melody on a little pump organ, committing it to memory. The next time a music teacher came through, he had him write out the tune for him.

O they tell me of a home far beyond the skies,
O they tell me of a home far away;
O they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise,
O they tell me of an unclouded day.

O the land of cloudless day,
O the land of an unclouded day,
O they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise,
O they tell me of an unclouded day.

Homer Rodeheaver was born in 1880, during the golden age of the gospel song. He served as a song leader for evangelist Billy Sunday, and also wrote the tunes for some songs (such as Good Night and Good Morning, and Then Jesus Came). He later formed a music publishing company, and a recording company. Here, in a recording made in 1913, is Homer Rodeheaver singing The Unclouded Day.

(3) Today in 1860 – Charles Fillmore Born
Charles Millard Fillmore began as a seminary music teacher, later traveling to conduct singing classes in various parts of the United States. Later still, he studied for the ministry and became an evangelist. He wrote several hundred gospel songs, but few are remembered today. One that is still found in a few song books is Tell Mother I’ll Be There. A sentimental ballad, typical of the nineteenth century, it still carries a message, and there is an interesting story behind it.

The mother of American president, William McKinley, took seriously ill in the winter of 1897. Since she lived some distance from Washington, McKinley had a special telegraph line installed between the capital and her town so he could keep current on her condition. When word came that she was near death, he wired back, “Tell mother I’ll be There.” On reading later of her death, evangelist Charles Fillmore wrote a song that made a spiritual application of the president’s words.

The “rooftree” mentioned in the second stanza was the beam that ran along the peak of the roof of a house, and it came to stand for the roof itself. The line simply means “when I left home.”

When I was but a little child how well I recollect
How I would grieve my mother with my folly and neglect;
And now that she has gone to heav’n I miss her tender care:
O Saviour, tell my mother, I’ll be there!

Tell mother I’ll be there, in answer to her prayer;
This message, blessèd Saviour, to her bear!
Tell mother I’ll be there, heav’n’s joys with her to share;
Yes, tell my darling mother I’ll be there.

When I became a prodigal, and left the old rooftree,
She almost broke her loving heart in mourning after me;
And day and night she prayed to God to keep me in His care:
O Saviour, tell my mother, I’ll be there!


  1. […] 2) Today in 1896 – Joseph Barnby Died Joseph Barnby was an acclaimed composer, conductor and organist in nineteenth century England. From his early teens, he was an outstanding choirmaster and he served as an organist in four London churches. Mr. Barnby was knighted in 1892. He edited several hymnals, and wrote 246 hymn tunes. Among the latter are Sandringham, for the hymn O Perfect Love, Merrial, for the above hymn (Now the Day Is Over), and Laudes Domini for When Morning Gilds the Skies. For more on the latter hymn, see Today in 1814. […]

  2. Hi–I came across this web site when I did a google search for who wrote them hymn “Unclouded Day”. I’ve seen it attributed to the country singer Willie Nelson, but knew that couldn’t be true because I have an old World War 2 military hymnal that has the hymn in it. I could not recall the author’s name. It was nice to hear that 1913 recording of Homer Rodeheaver singing it, altho my preference is for the faster versions of the song. The hymn also actually has a 4th verse, but I won’t attempt to type it in this message.

    • Thanks for your note. No, we can’t credit Willie Nelson with that one. 🙂 You can actually see (and hear) the full song, and see a picture of the author here on the Cyber Hymnal. God bless.

  3. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]


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