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When Morning Gilds the Sky

Full Text

1 When morning gilds the sky,
our hearts awaking cry:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
In all our work and prayer
we ask his loving care:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

2 To God, the Word on high,
the hosts of angels cry:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let mortals too upraise
their voice in hymns of praise:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

3 Let earth's wide circle round
in joyful notes resound:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let air and sea and sky
from depth to height reply:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

4 Be this, when day is past,
of all our thoughts the last:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
The night becomes as day
when from the heart we say:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

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Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

A morning hymn (st. 1) as well as an evening hymn (st. 4), the text presents praise to Christ from angels and human creatures (st. 2) and from the elements of earth to the farthest reach of the cosmos (st. 3). In fact, this text is for all times and places: "Be this the eternal song"!


Psalter Hymnal Handbook

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

What can possibly be so important that it is our first cry in the morning and our last thought at night? Belgic Confession, Article 20 testifies that God gave us “…his Son to die by a most perfect love” and then raised him to life “for our justification in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life.”


Because of such perfect love, comfort can be found in the words of Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1, Question and Answer 1: “I belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” This is our cry—first thing in the morning and last thought at night!


When Morning Gilds the Sky

Introductory/Framing Text

This litany of praise to Christ was translated from an anonymous German text, "Beim frühen Morgenlicht," thought to date from around 1800 (perhaps even the mid-1700s). The German text was first published in Sebastian Portner's Katholisches Gesanglruch (1828) in fourteen stanzas of couplets with a refrain line.
Edward Caswall's English translation, prepared from one of several variants of the text, was published in six stanzas in Henry Formby's Catholic Hymns (1854). Caswall published another eight stanzas in his Masque of Mary (1858).
A morning hymn (st. 1) as well as an evening hymn (st. 4), the text presents praise to Christ from angels and human creatures (st. 2) and from the elements of earth to the farthest reach of the cosmos (st. 3). In fact, this text is for all times and places: "Be this the eternal song"!
Joseph Barnby composed LAUDES DOMINI for this text. Tune and text were published together in the 1868 Appendix to Hymns Ancient and Modern and they have been inseparable ever since.
LAUDES DOMINI is one of Barnby's better tunes; many others have been forgotten or charitably retired by hymnal committees. The tune's Latin title, which means "the praises of the Lord," is derived from the litany refrain.
LAUDES DOMINI's most notable element is its built-in retard in the final phrase. Sing the stanzas in antiphonal fashion but have the entire congregation sing the refrain. Use strong organ accompaniment with a bit more stately tempo on the fifth stanza. Do not add any further ritardando to the final phrase; the composer has already provided it.
— Bert Polman

Additional Prayers

Faithful God, in joy we declare,
“The sun of righteousness rises
with healing in its wings!” (Mal. 4:2)
We pray for your Spirit to help many,
both far and near,
to experience this healing power,
and to join us as we say,
“May Jesus Christ be praised!” Amen.
— Lift Up Your Hearts (

When Morning Gilds the Sky

Tune Information

B♭ Major
6.6.6 D


Musical Suggestion

Since this hymn is familiar to so many of us, you'll want to spice it up a bit. Chimes, fanfares, randomly rung handbells, or Orff and percussion instruments could be added whenever "May Jesus Christ be praised!" is sung. Consider putting ribbons or streamers on sticks, and having the children wave them at those points for a visual fanfare.
Draw the congregation's attention to the images in the hymn—to the mention of praise in every aspect of life. From time to time, use the text as a prayer—or use individual stanzas as a springboard for intercessions and thanksgiving. 
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 23)
— James Hart Brumm

When Morning Gilds the Sky

Author Information

Edward Caswall (b. Yately, Hampshire, England, 1814; d. Edgebaston, Birmingham, England, 1878), the son of an Anglican clergyman, studied for the priesthood at Brasenose College, Oxford, England. He was ordained in 1839 and served the church in Stratford-sub-Castle but resigned his position in 1847. By this time he had become deeply involved in the Oxford Movement, an Anglican movement with strong Roman Catholic leanings. In 1847, Caswell and his wife traveled to Rome, where they were received into the Roman Catholic Church. After his wife's death, Caswell became a Roman Catholic priest and joined the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Birmingham, a group supervised by John Henry Newman, an earlier Roman Catholic convert from the Church of England. Caswell then devoted himself to two main tasks: serving the poor of Birmingham and writing and translating hymns, mainly from the Latin office-books and from German sources. Many of his translations were published in his Lyra Catholica (1849) and, with revisions, in Hymns and Poems (1873).
— Bert Polman

Composer Information

An accomplished and popular choral director in England, Joseph Barnby (b. York, England, 1838; d. London, England, 1896) showed his musical genius early: he was an organist and choirmaster at the age of twelve. He became organist at St. Andrews, Wells Street, London, where he developed an outstanding choral program (at times nicknamed "the Sunday Opera"). Barnby introduced annual performances of J. S. Bach's St. John Passion in St. Anne's, Soho, and directed the first performance in an English church of the St. Matthew Passion. He was also active in regional music festivals, conducted the Royal Choral Society, and composed and edited music (mainly for Novello and Company). In 1892 he was knighted by Queen Victoria. His compositions include many anthems and service music for the Anglican liturgy, as well as 246 hymn tunes (published posthumously in 1897). He edited four hymnals, including The Hymnary (1872) and The Congregational Sunday School Hymnal (1891), and coedited The Cathedral Psalter (1873).
— Bert Polman
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