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Prayer for the week

11 January 2013

by Meryl Doney


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 re-creation
Of the new day!

Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965) © Gervase Farjeon. From The Children's Bells (OUP)

IT'S a poem. It's a song. It's a beautiful prayer of praise. "Morning has broken", by Eleanor Farjeon, was first published in 1931 under the title "A Morning Song (For the First Day of Spring)". It quickly became a popular hymn. It is usually sung to the traditional Gaelic tune Bunessan, which it shares with the 19th-century Christmas carol "Child in the Manger".

Numerous musicians have since recorded it. In 1971, Cat Stevens (before he became Yusuf Islam) took it to number six in the US pop chart, as part of his album Teaser and the Firecat. It has now become associated with children's services, but I think deserves a wider audience.

I must confess that I find it hard to find words of genuine praise when I pray. A few thank-yous, and I'm on to a list of requests, whether for myself or for others. Perhaps the example of this prayer might help.

Farjeon is overwhelmed by the beauty of the morning. She describes the sound of birdsong, sees the sparkle of sunlight on droplets of dew, and smells the sweetness of the grass. In this morning, the whole of nature is shot through with the presence of God, from the references to the first garden in Eden to the image of Jesus's feet passing across the grass.

But, for Farjeon, this is much more than a hymn to nature. She later became a Roman Catholic, and described her faith as "a progression toward which my spiritual life moves rather than a conversion experience". With a light touch, she alludes to the source of all these beauties as "springing fresh from the Word" - from Christ the creator and sustainer of all things. Her sense of joy and gratitude is palpable. Her response is to "praise with elation".

She also claims the morning as her own, recognising it to be, in some sense, God's recreation. It brings to mind the verse from Lamentations 3, favoured by Victorian and Edwardian embroiderers; I remember it vividly because my mother had a framed version hanging in her bedroom: "For his compassions fail not, they are new every morning." Each morning brings a new start, new possibilities, new hope.

Of course, we may not be morning people. Our homes might not be surrounded by verdant gardens. But, when our moments of joy come along - the poignancy of a saxophone solo, perhaps, or the smile of a baby - they can be moments of recreation, and we can turn them into praise. In fact, they are praise. Among the more prosaic or disturbing experiences that we might encounter, they become our Eden moments.

So take this poem, song, and prayer as a starting point. Rejoice in "God's re-creation of the new day", whatever it brings.

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