The song “Work, For the Night Is Coming,” according to Church Gospel Songs & Hymns, was written by Annie Walker Coghill 1854, and the tune by Lowell Mason called WORK SONG was composed in 1864. The meter is 220.127.116.11 D, where D means “doubled” so this pattern repeats.
Annie Louisa Walker Coghill (1836-1907), Lyricist
Annie Louisa Walker Coghill was born at Kiddermore, Staffordshire, England in 1836. She married Harry Coghill in January 29, 1884 who was a widower. He passed away in 1897. They had no children. She passed away in Bath, England on July 7, 1907.
She moved with her family to Canada as her father worked for the Grand Trunk Railway. She and her sisters, Isabella and Frances, opened a girl’s school that operated until the deaths of her sisters. She spent time writing while in Canada and published some of her writings there in 1861 under the title of Leaves from the Blackwoods. After this, her family returned to England where her parents shortly passed away.
She was a prolific writer of novels, children plays, and magazines. The words for this hymn were published in the Canadian paper in 1854 as a poem entitled “The Night Cometh.” The text that she wrote also appeared in her Oak and Maple: English and Canadian Verses which was published in 1890. It appeared in Ira D. Sankey's Sacred Songs and Solos; however, her name is not listed in the acknowledgements which she mentioned in Oak and Maple. The poem would be set to the music of Lowell Mason.
Lowell Mason (1792-1872), Composer
Lowell Mason was born January 8, 1792 in Medfield, MA. He became a music director at the age of 17. He moved to Savannah, GA when he was 20 years of age; although the reason is uncertain. While there, he was known to educate black children, even establishing a Sunday school to educate them. He would return to Boston, MA in 1827.
He was married to Abigail Gregory Mason who died in 1889. They had 4 sons: Daniel Gregory, (b. 1820 in Savannah, GA); Lowell, Jr. (b. 1823 in Westborough, MA,); William (b. 1829 in Boston, MA) and Henry, (b. 1831 in Boston, MA).
To say that Lowell Mason was a popular music composer would be to put it mildly when one considers the songs to his credit including “Joy to the World,” “Mary Had A Little Lamb,” “Nearer My God to Thee,” and “My Faith Looks Up to Thee.” He was considered one of the greatest music educators of the United States. He was the co-founder of the Boston Academy of Music in 1833. He was a major educator of musicians, and his reputation only grew as time went on. He is sometimes referred to as the “Father of American Music Education”. He not only composed music, but he also published many musical compositions. He loved the works of Handel and Mozart and published hymns with their musical works in 1822.
In 1851 he retired and moved to New York to work in the music industry with his sons, David and Lowell Mason, Jr. He did a major tour of Europe which ignited his interest in congregational music. He accepted the position of Music Director for the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in 1853. He retired again in 1860 and moved to Orange, NJ. Mason died August 11, 1872 and is buried in Rosedale Cemetery in Orange, NJ.
Work, For The Night Is Coming
Jesus stated before he healed the blind man–“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (John 6:4–5 NKJV). Jesus cared for the lost of this world. He cared then, and He cares now. Notice this account from Matthew: “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:35–38 NKJV). He made the following statement at the sending out of seventy: “Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.” (Luke 10:2–3 NKJV)
Clearly, the work will not be easy; however, the work remains to be done! It is still light and work can still be done, but will we do it!
Cook, Ramsay and Hamelin, Jean, Editors, McMullen, Lorraine. “Walker, Anna Louisa (Coghill).” Dictionary of Canadian Biography 1901 – 1910, 13, Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1994, 1068.
Howard, V. E., and Broadus E. Smith, eds. Church Gospel Songs & Hymns. Texarkana, TX: Central Printers & Publishers, 1983.
“Lowell Mason,” No pages. Cited 25 June 2017. Online: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lowell_Mason.
“Lowell Mason,” No pages. Cited 25 June 2017. Online: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=3999.
Sankey, Ira D. Sacred Songs and Solos. London: Marshall, Morgan, and Scott, 1921.
Wiegand, John P., Editor. Praise for the Lord. Nashville, TN: Praise Press, 1997.