Hymns of Faith and Hope: Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning

Hymns of Faith and Hope: Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning January 6, 2021

Here’s a delightful little Epiphany hymn for you. The text is by Reginald Heber, the same critter who gave us “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” and “From Greenland’s Icy Mountains.”

Says J.R. Watson:

“Julian’s Dictionary of Hymnology tells us that ‘few hymns of merit have troubled compilers more than this.’ The problem seems to have been that ‘its use involved the worshipping of a star,’ and that its metre was ‘too suggestive of a solemn dance.’ It was perhaps for those reasons that it was not included in Hymns Ancient and Modern until 1916; but such absurd scruples have disappeared long ago, banished by the sheer charm of Heber’s vision. The prayer that the star may ‘dawn on our darkness,’ is reminiscent of the Third Collect at Evening Prayer – ‘Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord.'”

Oh….

Dear Modern Hymnals,

It’s “sons of the morning,” not “stars of the morning.” Get it right or pay the price.

Your friend,

Jonathan

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
dawn on our darkness, and lend us thine aid;
star of the east, the horizon adorning,
guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

Cold on his cradle the dew-drops are shining;
low lies his head with the beasts of the stall;
angels adore him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all.

Say, shall we yield him, in costly devotion,
odours of Edom, and offerings divine,
gems of the mountain, and pearls of the ocean,
myrrh from the forest, or gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
vainly with gifts would his favour secure:
richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Brightest and best of the sons of the morning,
dawn on our darkness, and lend us thine aid;
star of the east, the horizon adorning,
guide where our infant Redeemer is laid.

 

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