Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground
DESCRIPTION: "Dark was the night and cold was the ground On which the Lord was laid; The sweat like drops of blood run down; In agony he prayed." Jesus asks to be released from his burden, but submits to God's will; listeners are advised to learn from him
AUTHOR: Thomas Haweis (1732-1820) (Source: John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology)
EARLIEST DATE: 1792 (Carmina Christo) (Source: Julian)
KEYWORDS: religious Jesus Bible death ordeal request
FOUND IN: US(SE)
REFERENCES (2 citations):
BrownIII 526, "Dark Was the Night" (3 texts, though the "C" text, which is rather short, might be another song)
BrownSchinhanV 526, "Dark Was the Night" (notes only; recording missing)
John & Lovie Griffins, "Dark Was the Night, and Cold the Ground" (on MuSouth07)
ahaliah Jackson, "Dark Was the Night Cold the Ground" (on "Moving On Up a Little Higher," Shanachie CD SHA-6066 (2016))
Blind Willie Johnson, "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was on the Ground" (on USChartersHeroes;on AAFM1; "Dark Was The Night - Cold Was The Ground" (Columbia 14303-D, 1927)
Lucy McKeever, "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground" (on AFS 921 B, 1937)
Mary Price, "Dark Was the Night" (on MuSouth07)
Charlotte Rucell and Rev. Lewis Jackson, "Dark Was the Night" (on MuSouth07)
cf. "Frankie and Albert" [Laws I3] (lyrics)
cf. "My Soul Wants Something That's New" (first verse from Haweis)
NOTES [600 words]: The song appears in the Baptist Standard Hymnal (but not the New National Baptist Hymnal) as "Dark Was the Night" with arrangers' names listed, but no author. The song passed into folk tradition, and the title seems to have caught the imagination as well; the phrase appears in Mississippi John Hurt's recording of "Frankie and Albert" (!) and it's also used as the title of an extraordinary recording of slide guitar and wordless moaning by Blind Willie Johnson. - PJS
Lining Out Black Hymns
By lining out is meant the style in which a precentor or deacon calls out the words of one or two lines of a hymn and the congregation sings those lines before the next line or two are called. The style is called "Dr Watts" because some of the hymns still sung in the style were written by Isaac Watts.
While the calling out is rapid-fire the congregational singing is slow with many notes to each syllable. At some point the precentor may initiate moaning by the congregation. For a good example of this "old" style--with lining out and moaning--contrasted to the "new" style of hymn singing listen to Rev. Willie Mae Eberhart, Sister Fleeta Mitchell and Eddie Ruth Pringle, "A Charge to Keep I Have" on "Dust-to-Digital" CD DTD-12, various artists, "Art of Field Recording, Vol. 2" (2008).
The recordings of "Dark Was the Night..." listed here illustrate the lined out and moaning styles of hymn singing. Even on the solo recordings of Mary Price and Mahalia Jackson, the soloist calls out the lines and then sings them as the congregation would (The first line of the first verse is often not lined out since -- the assumption is -- the first line(s) have already been announced as the hymn to be sung next). The wordless Blind Willie Johnson recording of moaning is in this style of hymn singing. (The Lucy McKeever recording, which I was not able to download from the Library of Congress site -- may be an exception to this hymn singing style.)
William T Dargan's Lining Out the Word -- subtitle "Dr Watts Hymn singing in the music of Black Americans" -- is the book to read if you want to know more about this style of hymn singing. For moaning in hymn singing see pages 36-39 and 60. - BS
The request that God remove the cup from Jesus is found in all four Gospels (Matt. 26:42, Mark 14:26, Luke 22:42, cf. John 12:27). The main source, however, is probably Luke, because only Luke includes the bloody sweat.
At least, the King James translation does.
The reference is to Luke 22:43-44 -- verses which, however, are likely not part of Luke's original Greek text; of the earliest seven Greek witnesses, six -- those known as P75 ℵ(1) A B T W -- omit, as do some later witnesses of great weight (the earliest witnesses to include it are those known as ℵ* and D; it is also found in most of the early Latin translations, and may well have originated in Latin rather than Greek). Also, Jesus's prayer before his arrest is said to have taken place in a garden in John 18:1, but Gethsemane is not called a garden in the other three gospels -- and in John, Jesus had prayed for release from his fate rather earlier.
Incidentally, although Jesus was arrested at night, there is no reason to think the night was unusually dark (it was Passover time, after all, and Passover is a full moon festival); we have reports of darkness as Jesus died, but not at the time of his arrest, and there are no reports of bad weather at the time (not that that inherently means anything, of course). It reportedly was chilly, though, since Peter would warm his hands during the night (Mark 14:67, John 18:18). - RBW
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