Christ in the Morning

Here is an attempt at a morning hymn.  I’ve written it for the Scottish Gaelic tune “Bunessan,” which is better known to the public as “Morning Has Broken” (Eleanor Farjeon, 1931).  The latter is a popular hymn, though unfortunately the first two verses are rather more sentimental than properly hymnic.

Two brief notes about intellectual property.  Some of my text below is borrowed from an Irish hymn known as “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”  If you’re familiar with C. F. Alexander’s translation of this text, you’ll remember the wonderful interlude:

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

It will be obvious that I’ve simply condensed and reworked the rhymes of these verses for my own third stanza below.

The second note is that, as you’ll see, I’ve borrowed Eleanor Farjeon’s phrase “Morning has broken” for the first two lines.  This is not strictly in keeping with copyright, since Farjeon died in 1965 and therefore copyright will not expire until 2040.  But as my use of these lines shouldn’t be generating any material profit, it shouldn’t be an issue.  Why keep the famous opening, even though it’s famous?  The fact is that morning has broken is not only beautiful but also very singable:  the nasals of morning are much easier to articulate on a low note than harsher consonants would be, and the assonance of the long o’s (without any difficult consonant combinations in between) make the progression up the chord unoffensively smooth.

*        *        *        *        *

Morning has broken:  Christ be my beauty.
Morning has broken:  Christ be my sun.
Daybreak and mid-day, Christ labor with me,
And light my way when day is done.

Long is my journey:  Christ shall go with me.
Far is my yearning:  Christ be my guide,
Through flood and torrent, Christ make them blesséd
And wash me white at eventide.

Christ be within me, Christ be around me
Christ be beside me unto the end,
Christ in the heart of all them that love me,
Christ in the mouth of stranger and friend.

In that far kingdom whither I wander
They need no light of candle or sun:
Christ in His fullness shows them the Father,
And in His light they shine as one.

Unto the triune King in high heaven,
Father and Son and Spirit (amen),
Ever be blessing, ever be honor
Ever be glory, world without end.

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About middlingpoet

From the Gawain poet to Rainer Maria Rilke: I love the English and German traditions of poetry.
This entry was posted in Hymns. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Christ in the Morning

  1. Thanks for posting this. Cat Stevens’ Morning Has Broken takes me all the way back to childhood in the early 70’s, so the tune is especially memorable. (I wasn’t aware of the actual tune name nor of the composer.) I appreciate the setting of your words and reworked words to this tune. Very singable, I think.

  2. middlingpoet says:

    Thank you! Isn’t the tune wonderful? The Irish have the best melodies. I remember hearing a pop version as a kid and thinking, “This is way too pretty for pop!”

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