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  • Katherine Dudley Hoehn

Morning Has Broken

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

Morning on Fernandina Beach

The bird sounds at 6:00 a.m. are impressive this time of year. I hear babies and mothers, calls from down the street and from high up in the trees. The wrens are the roosters of the neighborhood, singing the sun awake and ensuring that the morning has broken once again.

I thought of the song “Morning Has Broken” this morning as I listened to the music coming from trees, bushes, and a few telephone wires. It's a song with lots of youthful memories attached to it, and it is also just wonderful to sing.

Mom and Dad; a happy morning in Colorado

I was reminded about the time in church, as a teenager, when I was so shocked that we were singing one of Cat Stevens’s songs, “Morning Has Broken.” I hadn’t ever heard it sung in church. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, and a fan of the music of the era, I had heard Cat Stevens’s song dozens of times on a record player. I had no idea he had lifted it from a hymn.

I nudged Dad, and said something about Cat Stevens, and he responded “Who? What?” and then “shhh.” After church he asked me why I was talking about cats in church, and I explained.

“’Morning Has Broken’ is a hymn that was written more than 30 years ago,” Dad said. “Not by some hippie.”

Fernandina sunrise

Not one to cross my Dad, I said, “well he's a good musician, and I heard it from him first. He talks about God and miracles.”

“But it’s not his song,” Dad said. He took our copy of the Presbyterian Hymnal from the bookshelf and showed me that, in fact, it was written in 1931 by Eleanor Farjeon. That ended the conversation.

I used to get up early when I was little, just so I could have time with Dad as morning was breaking. Others in our household didn't necessarily rise early. We’d talk about the birds singing, and what I wanted to do with my day.

When I was grown and home to visit, usually with my two young boys in tow, Dad was retired and always up first, his tea made. He'd have set a cup out for me, filled with hot water to keep it warm and ready. And he usually had concocted some unhealthy breakfast like bacon or fried grits with toasted buttery cornbread. “Good morning sweetheart,” he’d always say. It was a special time. I miss those words, said lovingly with his Kentucky drawl.

Dad would be 103 this week. He’s been gone more than 20 years. When I hear the birds singing, I think of him, and my slight error in the credit for “Morning Has Broken.”

Early mornings in Fernandina are just the best. I think the wrens might be singing their own version of "Morning Has Broken," as they try to out sing one another and be the first to the breakfast table.

"Morning Has Broken" from the back porch

Morning Has Broken

by Eleanor Farjeon, 1931

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 world

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 ev'ry morning God's recreation of the new day

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 world

Here is a link to the Cat Stevens version with some rather groovy graphics reminiscent of the 1970's.

Fernandina sunrise

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May 05, 2023

Had no idea of the original Morning Has Broken, thank you and thank your Dad! We just love hearing the birds early in the morning this time of year, too. Such a nice remembrance to read, Katherine.


May 05, 2023

Such a beautiful tribute to your Dad! Thank you for sharing. 💕


May 01, 2023

You were so blessed to have a wonderful dad and lovely memories.


Apr 28, 2023

Just beautiful! We are so lucky to live here surrounded by birdsong. Thank you for sharing a slice of your special memories you had with your Dad❤️


Apr 27, 2023

A very nice piece, Katherine. Thank you for the song!


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