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A hymn created by Martin Shaw and Eleanor Farjeon


Tune for Morning has Broken


90 Years Since First Publication


Morning has Broken was created by Martin Shaw and Eleanor Farjeon. It was first sung in 1931 with the publication of Songs of Praise Enlarged. This book of hymns, many sung to folk tunes, was widely used, especially in schools, between the 1930s and the 1970s, and continues to be popular today. It remains in copyright. Email for permission to use the hymn if you do not regularly use Songs of Praise .


Some Background History

Farjeon dedication with sideview portrait


As the dedication from Eleanor Farjeon, above, shows, Shaw and his wife Joan were close friends.


Shaw wrote about Farjeon in his book of reminiscences Up to Now:

Eleanor is always bright and cheerful – ’allegro vivace’. Pessimism changes to optimism as she comes in at the door. She is just like her verse, bubbling over with a sense of life’s jollity, yet she can touch a deeper note when she likes...

...In both the hymn-book and the the carol book [Songs of Praise and the Oxford Book of Carols] which I have lately been helping to edit with Percy Dearmer and Vaughan Williams it has been necessary to provide verse for a number of old tunes. ...With Eleanor Farjeon, all you have to do is send her a tune and she turns out a set of verses of faultless fit.


Poem by Eleanor Farjeon

The words were originally a poem written by Eleanor Farjeon. It is listed in the Farjeon Estate as being written in 1925. From letters in the OUP Archive Farjeon writes that the poem may have first appeared in the Daily Herald. At the time she was supplying them with some verses every day. She altered the words of the original poem to fit the unusual metre of the tune.


First Edition of Songs of Praise

Songs of Praise had the same editors as The English Hymnal:

Songs of Praise had first been published in 1925, to popular acclaim. The only criticism of it was that it was not large enough! Some years later there was a plan for a further, enlarged edition.


The Oxford Book of Carols

However, the next project for the three editors was the Oxford Book of Carols. Shaw’s widow explained that it was during these researches that he had come across the Gaelic carol Leanabh an AighChild in a Manger, paired with the tune Bunessan. It contains the words ‘Monarchs have tender/delicate children,/Nourished in splendour, proud and gay;’ somewhat sentimental and wholly unsuitable for the Socialist spirit of the times. As a result, Shaw and Dearmer did not select it for the OBC.



In February 1929 Percy Dearmer wrote to Shaw privately, telling him ...any tune or words that occur to you to put them by in an envelope marked S.P. for future use if any...

It would seem that Bunessan was one of the tunes Shaw put by for this purpose, and that when the project for an enlarged Songs of Praise was underway, he rang up Eleanor Farjeon to ask if she had any words that would fit it. Farjeon then adapted the words of her poem Morning has Broken, which were the "faultless fit", Martin Shaw describes above. The combination of the tune and the poem became Hymn Number 30: Morning has Broken, first published in Songs of Praise Enlarged in 1931.


Other Projects

Shaw and Farjeon collaborated on other projects too. The first Shaw/Farjeon collaboration was the children's song Gather up your Litter –an early "Keep Britain Tidy" campaign – still available today from Banks Music. Shaw had responded to the King’s appeal in 1928 “to preserve the amenities of the countryside by being tidy”; this was their contribution!


Cat Stevens Recording

The use of Morning has Broken as a pop song originated in the early 1970s, when Cat Stevens came across a copy of Songs of Praise, a book he had never seen before. Leafing through it, he found it to be a theasaurus of folk song. He made his own arrangement of Morning has Broken – thinking, ironically, that it was a Victorian hymn. It has been freqently recorded since.



Today Morning has Broken is frequently sung at weddings and funerals, with the attribution by Cat Stevens. Shaw was never one for ostentatious display, both he and Vaughan Williams expected enquirers to consult the copyright declaration in the Introduction of Songs of Praise for copyright information on their folk-tune arrangements.

Shaw’s arrangement remains in copyright until 2028. See Three Stories about Copyright...


For more information contact


Information supplied from material in:
The Martin Shaw Collection Martin Shaw Collection at the British Library

Percy Dearmer Collection at Lambeth Palace
The Oxford University Press Archives
Percy Dearmer: A Parsons Pilgrimage, by Donald Gray: ISBN 1–85311–335–2

and from the Eleanor Farjeon Estate

Further information on Morning has Broken can be found in Songs of Praise Discussed; OUP; 1933 & 1952.


Songs from The Airmen: Songs originally published with Cramer on the CD are available to singers as archive copies from Cramer published Shaw's songs from 1923 onwards.



The following three works have been re-orchestrated, and are now available on request:

Sursum Corda, available from Music Sales, was composed in 1933 with words written specially by Laurence Binyon. (15 mins)

Easter, a play for singers: is also available through Music Sales. Inspired by the medieval mystery plays, the play was written in 1929 with words by John Masefield. Set outside Christ's tomb in the early hours of Easter morning it has solo parts for twelve singers ,together with a double choir of angels. (30 mins)

The Changing Year is now available from Stainer and Bell. A secular cantata, written for the Festival of Britain in 1951, it was first performed at Colchester. As with Shaw's oratorio The Redeemer, the words are chosen from the canon of English verse by Shaw's wife, Joan Cobbold. (45 mins).


Audio Clip for Sursum Corda

Recording made in 1975 by the Broadheath Singers with the Winsor Sinfonia, conducted by Robert Tucker. Full recording available on request.