This page was created by Donal Hegarty.  The last update was by Alisa Clapp-Itnyre .

Sounding Childhood

Awake, my soul, and with the sun

The second in my tabulated list of most frequently published hymns has been a staple farther back even than the Victorian period and was considered by hymnologist John Julian to be one of four best of all English hymns: that of Bishop Ken’s Morning Hymn, “Awake, my soul, and with the sun.” 

It was written before 1674 and published, along with its companion pieces, the Evening and Midnight hymns, in Thomas Ken’s A Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Scholars of Winchester College in 1695.  All three hymns contain about 12 verses each, but Victorian hymn books selected 4-5 verses.  The hymn espouses a Protestant work ethic, “shaking off dull sloth” and paying the “morning sacrifice,” opening with alliterative flare (note the many s’s) to energize the singer. Calvinist ideologies permeate the hymn: “God’s all-seeing eye” observes human transgressions (v. 3), the singer asking that sins be dispersed “as morning dew” (v. 5).  Angels hover over: “Who all night long unwearied sing/ High praise to the eternal King” (v. 4). God directs the day, but the child is very much in control: “All I design, or do, or say” (v.5).  She “wakes” and “lifts up thyself” (v. 4), and with “all [her] powers, with all their might” (v. 6) gives personal agency to the moment.  Most importantly for Ken, both the child and the adult praise God, as the “Doxology” (as we know it today) ends the poem: “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,” etc.

        The various tunes associated with the Morning Hymn include “Commandments” (in Hymns Ancient and Modern), “Morning Hymn” (by Francois Barthélémon), and “Tallis’ Canon.”

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