STLT#357, Bright Morning Stars

I started singing this morning before I opened the hymnal, because I knew what today’s song would be. “Bright morning star’s a-risin’…” I sang.

And then I looked at our lyrics – “Bright morning stars are rising” – and thought, huh? Isn’t there just one morning star – the sun, or if we go Christian on it, Jesus? And which one’s right? This led me down the inevitable rabbit hole of learning more about the origins of the song and its original lyrics and tune. Surely I could get there and enlighten us all.

There is no “there” there.

Origins are sketchy – maybe Appalachian, someone hinted at Native American, someone else wondered about the Shakers, still another pinned it back to Ireland. And lyrics are sketchier still – seems some versions have been lengthily written to talk more about Jesus as the bright morning star, other versions more grounded in work and toil. And of course, there’s a debate on whether it’s “bright morning star’s a-rising” or “bright morning stars are rising”…

Bright morning stars are rising.
Bright morning stars are rising.
Bright morning stars are rising.
Day is a-breaking in my soul.

Oh, where are our dear mothers…

They are sowing seeds of gladness…

Oh, where are our dear fathers…

They are in the fields a-plowing…

The good news is that because of it’s long folk history, we can change some of our lyrics to remove the gender binary or add more verses to include others.

I know this is the first of our Entrance songs, but it is so wistful and somber to me, I couldn’t imagine using it that way. This always seems to me a song of hard-won joy or a longing for release. The “day is a-breaking” reminds me of the moment I had a few days ago with the line “Dawn breaks in me too” from Golden Skies at Dawn…. a releasing moment of prayer.

So. No clarity on this one, so make it your own. And if you’re not sure you can do that, start with this beautiful version by the Wailin’ Jennys:

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