Blackbirds

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(Blackbirds sitting on a wire, Julie Cook / 2014)

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the 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 recreation of the new day.

Eleanor Farjeon

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(Blackbirds sitting on a wire, Julie Cook / 2014)

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(Blackbirds sitting on a wire, Julie Cook / 2014)

Morning Has Broken is a Christian Hymn first published in 1931—It was written by the English author Eleanor Farjeon and is set to a traditional Scotch / Gaelic tune known as Bunessan (of which is the name of a small Scottish village). The “tune” was originally used in an earlier hymnal dating to the year 1900 which contained a different set of lyrics. Yet it’s the version sung by Cat Stevens which is likely to be the most familiar to a listener’s ear.

Cat Stevens, a British born musician whose father was Greek Orthodox and mother a Swedish Baptist was educated at a private Catholic School. He did not excel in school but had a penchant for art and music. During his lifetime Cat Stevens had two close encounters with death–the first being when he contracted Tuberculosis and the second when he nearly drowned while swimming off the coast of Malibu.

In 1977 Cat Stevens left behind the life he had known as a musician and song writer when he converted to Islam. Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, sold off all of his guitars in 1979 and left his once popular music behind, dedicating his life to humanitarian work as well as education within the Muslim community. He has since returned to the music industry under the single name of Yusuf with his interests steeped in his Muslim faith. He still lives in London.

Eleanor Farjeon was born in London in 1881. She, like her father, was a very successful British author best known for her children’s stories but was also an accomplished poet, playwright, composer of musicals as well as being noted for writing for several British magazine publications. She was considered somewhat shy as a child and rather “bookish” as well as being a bit immature which lasted well into adulthood. She was homeschooled and also suffered from poor health during childhood. She never married but had several youthful infatuations with two different married men–she then had two different long term relationships with different men spanning the bulk of her adult life. She also ran in a rather prestigious literary circle consisting of D.H. Lawrence, Robert Frost and Edward Thomas.

Eleanor began writing at the age of 5 eventually learning to use her father’s typewriter by the age of 7. She possessed a vivid imagination which successfully fed into her prolific writing all throughout her life. During her lengthy career, Eleanor received several notable literary awards for her children’s stories including the Carnegie Medal as well as the Hans Christian Anderson Medal. In memory of her outstanding work and accomplishments, The Children’s Book Circle currently awards the Eleanor Farjeon Medal to individuals who have made outstanding contributions in the field of Children’s books.
She converted to Catholicism in 1955, 10 years prior to her death in 1965.

I find it both interesting and perhaps even a little odd of the correlation which can exist between a beloved hymn and with those who first “created” it and then proceeded to make it “famous” —
What an odd amalgamation of lives and talents of two very different individuals who, decades apart, each contributed mightily to the longevity of a song we all find familiar, melodic, soothing as well as possessing the ability of transporting those who either sing, listen or do both to a place of Spiritual peace.

What perhaps might you do, or write or think today that may one day be touched by another in order to create something greater than you ever thought possible. . .

7 comments on “Blackbirds

  1. phyllissnipes says:

    Insightful thoughts on a hymn I truly love!

  2. lljostes says:

    I learned some new things–now when I hear that song’s words–I know exactly who “he” is referring to. Makes me smile and give praise! Thanks, Julie! ~ Laura

  3. David says:

    Insightful thoughts indeed Julie.

    Somewhere in the attic are my old Cat Stevens LP records and singles. He always seemed to be seeking something and thought he had found it in Islam. I didn’t know that his mother was a Swedish Baptist!

    Blessings, David

    • Yes somewhere in my attic are my Cat Stevens albums as well. And as I truly loved his music, I was saddened when I had learned that he had chosen the path of a Muslim and had left his music behind.
      He has since returned to writing and preforming but his music is now a reflection of his choice of faith.
      I never knew he was raised Greek Orthodox, attended a Catholic School, yet chose the path of Mohammed—go figure!
      I wonder if he has found that happiness and satisfaction I think he spent much of his life seeking in the Koran verses the True Word of the True One God….

  4. Interesting post and the last line poses an interesting question and challenge. I didn’t know that this is what had become of Cat Stevens. Very interesting post, missy. Hugs, N 🙂

    • I learned a great deal putting the post together. I love Cat Stevens’ music when I was in high school and had read quite sometime back of his departure from music to his new religion. He got himself into a bit of trouble after 9/11 with his support of the fatwa issued to Salman Rushdie and for funneling of money to known terrorists, although he denied such—he was put on the US no fly list and has not been allowed to fly to the US—not so sure if that ban has been lifted or not—
      kind of made me sad really—
      Odd mix of two folks who’s talents went into a beloved hymn—-
      xoxoxo julie

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