When Morning Gilds the Skies

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 voices 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!

5 Then let us join to sing
to Christ, our loving King:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Be this the eternal song
through all the ages long:
May Jesus Christ be praised!

Psalter Hymnal, 1987

Translator: Edward Caswall

Edward Caswall was born in 1814, at Yately, in Hampshire, where his father was a clergyman. In 1832, he went to Brasenose College, Oxford, and in 1836, took a second-class in classics. His humorous work, "The Art of Pluck," was published in 1835; it is still selling at Oxford, having passed through many editions. In 1838, he was ordained Deacon, and in 1839, Priest. He became perpetural Curate of Stratford-sub-Castle in 1840. In 1841, he resigned his incumbency and visited Ireland. In 1847, he joined the Church of Rome. In 1850, he was admitted into the Congregation of the Oratory at Birmingham, where he has since remained. He has published several works in prose and poetry. --Annotations of the Hymnal, Charles Hutchins, M.A. 1872… Go to person page >

Text Information

First Line: When morning gilds the skies
Title: When Morning Gilds the Skies
German Title: Beim frühen Morgenlicht
Translator: Edward Caswall (1854)
Source: German, 1828
Language: English
Liturgical Use: Opening Hymns


Scripture References:
st. 1 = Ps. 34:1
st. 2 = Rev. 5:6-14
st. 3 = Ps. 19:1
ref. = Heb. 13:15

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 (b. Yately, Hampshire, England, 1814; d. Edgebaston, Birmingham, England, 1878) published another eight stanzas in his Masque of Mary (1858). Like most other hymnals, the Psalter Hymnal provides a text taken from various parts of the Caswall translation.

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"!

Caswell, 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).

Liturgical Use:
Many occasions as a hymn of praise to Christ; a hymn for all seasons and all times of worship–morning, midday, or evening; could also frame the day of worship with stanzas 1-3 used at the beginning of morning worship and stanzas 4-5 used as a doxology for evening worship.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook, 1987
When morning gilds the skies, by E. Caswall, first published in H. Formby's Catholic Hymns, London, N. D., 1854 [approbation May 3, 1853], p. 44, in 6 stanzas of 4 lines and double refrain. In Caswall's Masque of Mary, 1858, 8 stanzas were added, and thus in his Hymns & Poems, 1873, p. 155, in 28 stanzas of 2 lines and refrain, entitled "The Praises of Jesus," the first line being given as "Gelobt sey Jesus Christ," which, as will be seen above, is the original refrain. The full text is given unaltered as No. 269 in the Appendix to the Hymnal Noted, 3rd edition, 1867.
This hymn has attained considerable popularity, and is found in varying centos, as in Hymns Ancient & Modern, 1868-75; Hymnary, 1872; Baptist Hymnal, 1879; Scottish Free Church Hymn Book, 1882; Border's Collection, 1884; and in America in the Baptist Praise Book, 1871; Evangelical Hymnal, N. Y., 1880; Laudes Domini, 1884, and others. Generally it appears under its original first line, but in the People's Hymnal, 1867, it is divided into two parts, No. 446 beginning "The night becomes as day," which is stanza xi. of the 1828, and stanza xx. of the text of 1873. [Rev. James Mearns, M.A.]

-- John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology (1907)



Joseph Barnby (b. York, England, 1838; d. London, England, 1896) 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. An accomplished and popular choral director in England, Barnby show…

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