The website for Dr Martin Shaw OBE FRCM (1875 –1958)

"...send her a tune and she turns out a set of verses of faultless fit. "

Martin Shaw on Eleanor Farjeon

Morning has Broken


Farjeon dedication with sideview portrait


Shaw and Eleanor Farjeon

As the dedication from Eleanor Farjeon, above, shows, Shaw and his wife Joan were close friends of hers. As well as friends they were also neighbours in Hampstead , and frequent collaborators.


Gather up Your Litter

One of the Shaw/Farjeon collaborations was the children's song Gather up your Litter –an early "Keep Britain Tidy" campaign – a song which is still in print. Shaw had responded to the King’s appeal in 1928 “to preserve the amenities of the countryside by being tidy” .


Shaw wrote about Farjeon in his 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.

A Hymn in Songs of Praise

Morning has Broken was first published in Songs of Praise Enlarged in 1931. This book of folk-tune hymns was widely used, especially in schools, between the 1930s and the 1970s.

Poem by Eleanor Farjeon

The words for the hymn 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. The carol begins with 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, Martin Shaw 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 passed it on to Dearmer. Dearmer, as Words Editor, in turn passed the tune onto Eleanor Farjeon. Farjeon then adapted the words of her poem Morning has Broken for a "faultless fit", as Martin Shaw describes above. The combination of the tune and the poem became Hymn Number 30, Morning has Broken, in Songs of Praise Enlarged, which was first published in 1931.

Cat Stevens Recording

Its use as a pop song originated in the early 1970s, when pop-musician Cat Stevens came across a copy of Songs of Praise, a book he had never seen before. He found it to be a treasure-store of folk song, and went on to make 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 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 for copyright information on their folk-tune arrangements.

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


Answer supplied from material in:
The Martin Shaw Archive
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.