Saturday, November 28, 2015
We'll Work Till Jesus Comes -- Elizabeth King Mills
She was nearly anonymous, and maybe a little clairvoyant? Could that be the two characteristics most often associated with the all-too brief career of songwriter Elizabeth King Mills? She had a notable spouse, and she also died as a young woman, but if the words of her hymn “We’ll Work Till Jesus Comes” tell us more, then we could also say she certainly put her hope and trust in Christ, and speculate that she in fact longed for the next life. Was she unhappy with her mortal existence, as one might surmise from her poem? What led to her early departure from the Earth? What does the work-energy model of you and me look like – a scientific equation (like one shown here), or some other model?
Elizabeth Mills lived only into her mid-20s in the early portion of the 19th Century, so perhaps much of her potential went unrealized. One might think that the spouse of a member of England’s Parliament would have had more recorded biographic information, yet relatively few details of Mills’ life are apparently known. She began life in 1805 in London as the daughter of Philip King, and later was the wife of Thomas Mills, a member of England’s legislative body. In April 1829 she died, but of what cause is unknown, though we can imagine it might have been considered tragic because of her young age – just 24 or 25. Was she aware of a health issue that could shorten her life? It’s another question without an answer, yet one might think she had some clue that earthly life held no guarantees. One of her handful of hymns, “We Speak of the Realms of the Blest”, was written just a few weeks before her death, and thematically hints of someone looking beyond this life. In fact, some of Mills’ other song poems have the same trait, not too surprising for a believer, but nevertheless perhaps revealing of her emotional state. “We’ll Work…” shows Elizabeth imagined a peaceful, restful home, a place where she could put aside earthly concerns. Was her life unhappy, maybe because of health or another kind of challenge? For her, songwriting may have been therapeutic, if this were true. Perhaps her circumstances also allowed her to grasp an elemental truth – mortality.
Elizabeth apparently accepted one fact, which led to her recognition of another. Not a lot of philosophical hairsplitting needs to happen to know the following: death is real, and I need an escape hatch. Do you suppose Elizabeth’s poetry evolved because her demise was imminent, cruelly thrust upon her? If so, she could have been bitter. Yet, she must have instead sensed that the other end of the life equation was not in doubt, courtesy of our Creator. I didn’t like math in school, but I think the math solution Elizabeth found is the one I need too. What about you? If He could construct me to work like this diagram above, do you think He’s got the other stuff in hand too?
See this link for scant biographic information on the composer: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/m/i/l/mills_ek.htm
See more information on composer here: http://www.hymnary.org/person/Mills_Elizabeth
See this link for the song’s verses: http://www.hymntime.com/tch/htm/w/e/l/wellwork.htm