The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Brightest and Best of the Sons of the Morning

For Epiphany

Also found with the title "The Star of the East."

Words: Bishop Reginald Heber, 1783-1826

See also Hail The Blest Morn!

Music: "Morning Star," James Proctor Harding, 1892.
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Alternate tunes:
St. Ninian, John B. Dykes (MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML); 
Liebster Immanuel (MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML);
[Adaptation by J. S. Bach]
Meter: 11 10 11 10

1. 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.

2. Cold on His cradle the dewdrops are shining;
    Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall.
Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,
    Maker and Monarch and Savior of all.

3. Shall we not yield Him, in costly devotion1
   
Odors of Edom and offerings divine,
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
    Myrrh from the forest and gold from the mine?

4. Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
    Vainly with gifts2 would His favor secure.
Richer by far is the heart's adoration;
    Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

5. Brightest and best of the sons3 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.

Notes:

1. Or: Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion. Return

2. Or: Vainly with gold. Return

3. Or: rolls. Return

Sheet Music from John Clark Hollister, ed., The Sunday-School Service and Tune Book (New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, 1863, 1865), #20, p. 39.

Page One

Sheet music from A. B. Goodrich, ed., A New Service And Tune Book For Sunday Schools (New York: Gen. Prot. Episc. S. S. Union and Church Book Society, 1863, New Edition, Enlarged, 1866), #21, p. 42.

Page One

Sheet Music by E. J. Hopkins from Mary Palmer and John Farmer, eds., Church Sunday School Hymn-Book (London: Church of England Sunday-School Institute, 1892).

Page One

Sheet Music by Mr. H. S. Irons from Rev. Richard R. Chope, Carols For Use In Church (London: William Clowes & Sons, 1894), Carol #137
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Page One

Sheet Music "Wesley" by Lowell Mason, 1830, from Henry Sloane Coffin and Ambrose White Vernon, eds., Hymns of the Kingdom of God. New York: The A. S. Barnes Company, 1910, #51, p. 87.

Page One

Sheet Music from I. H. Meredith and Grant Colfax Tullar, Sunday School Hymns No. 2. New York: Tullar-Meredith Co., 1912, Hymn #222.

Page One

Sheet Music "Morning Star" by James Proctor Harding from Rev. Charles Lewis Hutchins, Carols Old and Carols New (Boston: Parish Choir, 1916), Carol 739
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Page One

Sheet Music "Morning Star" from O. Hardwig, ed., The Wartburg Hymnal (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House, 1918), #152

Page One

Sheet Music "St. Ninian" from O. Hardwig, ed., The Wartburg Hymnal (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing House, 1918), #153

Page One

Also occurs in The Book of Christmas Hymns (London: T. Nelson and Sons, 1868), pp. 19-20, omitting the third verse of the original.

Also found in G. Walters, A Good Christmas Box (Dudley: G. Walters, 1847, Reprinted by Michael Raven, 2007), p. 56.

Notes:

Bishop Heber originally wrote this image-filled hymn for the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6. It was first published in the Christian Observer in 1811, but did not appear in hymnals until after Heber's death. At the time of composition, the author was vicar of Hodnet, the family estate where he served for 16 years. The precise circumstances of its creation are not known. Details of his life are found in this biography:  Bishop Reginald Heber.

Among the many tunes which have been set to this hymn (Professor Studwell estimates more than 20), the "Morning Star" setting by James P. Harding (1859-1911) is among the best known. He was for 35 years the organist at St. Andrews Church, Islington, London, and composed a considerable body of church music, especially music for children's festivals at Islington. For many years, he was engaged in work for the Civil Service, dedicated to the material and spiritual well-being of the poor. According to Studwell, it was composed in June, 1892.

Sources:

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