Posted by: rcottrill | March 11, 2015

Morning Has Broken

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Words: Eleanor Farjeon (b. Feb. 13, 1881; d. June 5, 1965)
Music: Bunessan, an old Gaelic melody

Wordwise Hymns (Eleanor Farjeon born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Eleanor Farjeon)

Note: The story of how this 1931 hymn came to be written is told in the second Wordwise Hymns link. A new hymnal was in preparation in 1931. The editors wanted to make use of an old Gaelic melody, but could find no suitable words to fit. They turned to Eleanor Farjeon, asking her to write a poem of thankfulness for the new day. Miss Farjeon was the daughter of English novelist Benjamin Farjeon. She was a journalist, also writing poems, novels, plays (even an opera libretto), and children’s books. In 1959 she received the Regina Medal for her work with children.

On Christmas Eve, in 1968, the spacecraft Apollo 8 orbited the rocky surface of the moon. With the earth in view out of the porthole, a tiny bright gem in the blackness of space, the three astronauts on board read to us the opening verses of the book of Genesis, stirring words describing the dawn of creation.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light;’ and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day” (Gen. 1:1-5).

Have you ever imagined what it would have been like to be there at creation? To watch and wonder as, first there was nothing, and then there was something? The Bible says God “calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom. 4:17, ESV). “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Heb. 11:3). The Latin term for that is creation ex nihilo (out of nothing).

By His almighty word, the Lord called into being the elements that make up our material universe, fashioning and forming them, according to His will. “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16). “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1). To deny His eternal power and Godhead is utter folly (Ps. 14:1; cf. Rom. 1:20).

“For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).

Farjeon pondered the words of Genesis 1:5, which describes the first day of creation: “God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.” That’s how it started. And perhaps we capture something of the beginning of all things when we step outside into the warm morning sunshine and relish the shear joy of the dawning of a beautiful new day. Eleanor Farjeon seems to have felt that way, and she put an experience “like the first morning” into words.

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!

3) 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!

The first stanza ends with a recognition that the Lord Jesus Christ (“the Word,” cf. Jn. 1:1) created the morning to begin with. Then (stanza three) He, as a Person in the triune Godhead, sustains the orderly cycles of nature by His almighty power.

On the latter point, the Bible says of Christ, “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist [they endure, or are held together]” (Col. 1:17). And He is “upholding [supporting, sustaining] all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:3). He continues to do these things.

Thus the very existence of all things depends on sustaining energy of the Son of God. So, in a sense, each new day is an echo of the dawn of creation, awakening fresh praise from our hearts. “This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).

1) What elements of nature most often awaken praise and worship to God in your heart?

2) Some reject the Bible’s record of creation because it is not “scientific.” What is more likely the real reason for their denial of Bible truth?

Wordwise Hymns (Eleanor Farjeon born, died)
The Cyber Hymnal (Eleanor Farjeon)


  1. I love this hymn, but I had never heard the story behind it. Thank you for this post.

  2. A complete provenance surely must refer to the lyrics “Child In the Manger” which were used in the original setting of the beautiful melody, written in Scottish Gaelic by Mary M. MacDonald, a native of Bunessan.

    • H-m-m… Well, I know that Bunessan was first published in 1888, in Songs and Hymns of the Gael, and appeared in the Irish Church Hymnal, in 1919 with the text you mention. I do try to be as accurate as I can about the hymns and their tunes However, my focus has never been on the latter, but on how the themes dealt with in the words reflect what is in the Word of God (or don’t).

      Also, in the thousands of articles I’ve written on the subject, I’ve tried to maintain something of a popular touch and not wax to scholarly. I’d rather put things on a lower shelf and encourage folks to dig deeper. Kinda suits where I’m at myself. Not an expert, but just a fellow who loves our hymnody and doesn’t want it to be forgotten.


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