Poetry of Freemasonry
Although Freemasonry has been distinguished more than any other single institution for the number of verses to which it has given birth, it has not produced any poetry of a very high order, except a few lyrical effusions. Rime, although not always of transcendent merit, has been a favorite form of conveying its instructions. The oldest of the Constitutions, that known as the Halliwell or Regius Manuscript, is written in verse; and almost all the early catechisms of the Degrees were in the form of rime, which, although often doggerel in character, served as a convenient method of assisting the memory.
But the imagination, which might have been occupied in the higher walks of poetry, seems in Freemasonry to have been expended in the construction of its symbolism, which may, however, be considered often as the results of true poetic genius.
There are, besides the songs, of which the number in all languages is very great, an abundance of prologues and epilogues, of odes and anthems, some of which are not discreditable to their authors or to the Institution. But there are very few poems on Masonic subjects of any length. The French have indulged more than any other nation in this sort of composition, and the earliest Masonic poem known is one published at Frankfort, 1756, with the title of Noblesse des Franc-Maons ou Institution de leur Socite avant le deluge universel et de son renouvellement apres le Deluge, Nobility of the Freemasons, or the Institution of their Society before the Universal Deluge and of its Renovation after the Flood. It was printed anonymously, but the authorship of it is attributed to M. Jartigue. It is a transier to verse of all the Masonic myths contained in the Legend of the Craft and the traditional history of Anderson Neither the material nor the execution exempt the author from Horace's denunciation of poetic mediocrity.
A selection of poems that are of sufficient merit to be notable exceptions to the above criticism by Doctor Mackey, are here inserted.
The Lodge-room Over Simpkins' Store The plainest lodge-room in the land was over Simpkins' store Where Friendship Lodge had met each month for fifty years or more. When o'er the earth the moon full-orbed, had cast her bnghtest beams, The Brethren came from miles around on horseback and in teams. And O! what hearty grasp of hand, what welcome met them there, As mingling with the waiting groups they slowly mount the stair. Exchanging fragmentary news or prophecies of crop, Until they reach the Tyler's room and current topics drop, To turn their thoughts to nobler themes they cherish and adore And which were heard on meeting night up over Simpkins' store. To city eyes, a cheerless room, long usage had defaced, The tell-tale lines of lath and beam on wall and ceiling traced. The light from oil-fed lamps was dim and yellow in its hue The carpet once could pattern boast, though now 'twas lost to view. The altar and the pedestals that marked the stations three, The gatepost pillars topped with balls, the rude-carved Letter G. Were village joiner's clumsy work, with many things beside, Where beauty's lines were all effaced and ornament denied There could be left no lingering doubt, if doubt there was before The plainest lodge-room in the land was over Simpkins' store. While musing thus on outward form the meeting time drew near And we had glimpse of inner life through watchful eye and ear. When Lodge convened at gavel's sound with officers in place We looked for strange, conglomerate work, but could no errors trace. The more we saw, the more we heard, the greater our amaze To find those country Brethren there so skilled in Masons' ways. But greater marvels were to come before the night was through, Where unity was not mere name, but fell on heart like dew Where tenets had the mind imbued, and truths rich fruitage bore In plainest lodge-room in the land, up over Simpkins' store. To hear the record of their acts was music to the ear, We sing of deeds unwritten which on angel's Scroll appear. A Widow's Case--for Helpless Ones--lodge funds were running low, A dozen Brethren sprang to feet and offers were not slow. Food, raiment, things of needful sort, while one gave load of wood Another, shoes for little ones, for each gave what he could. Then spake the last:--"I haven't things like these to give--but then, Some ready money may help out"--and he laid down a Ten Were Brother cast on darkest square upon life's checkered floor A beacon light to reach the white--was over Simpkins' store. Like scoffer who remained to pray, impressed by sight and sound The faded carpet death our feet was now like holy ground. The walls that had such dingy look were turned celestial blue. The ceiling changed to canopy where stars were shining through. Bright tongues of flame from altar leaped, the G was vivid blaze, All common things seemed glorified by heaven's reflected rays. O! wondrous transformation wrought through ministry of love-- Behold the Lodge-room Beautiful!--fair type of that above The vision fades--the lesson lives! and taught as ne'er before, In plainest lodge-room in the land--up over Simpkins' store. --Lawrenee N. Greenleaf, Past Grand Master of Colorado, died October 25, 1922.
What Came We Here To Do? Foot to foot, no matter where, Though far beyond my destined road If Brother needs a Brother's care, On foot I'll go and share his load. Knee to knee, no selfish prayer Shall ever from my lips ascend For all who act upon the square, At least, henceforth, my knee shall bend. Breast to breast, and this I swear, A Brother's secrets here shall sleep If told to me upon the square, Save those I am not bound to keep. Hand to back, oh type of love! Fit emblem to adorn the skies, Be this our task below, above To help poor falling mortals rise. Cheek to cheek, or mouth to ear, " we all like sheep have gone astray," May we good counsel give and bear 'Til each shall find the better way. --I. M. Jenkins, Brotherhood, January, 1920.
The Temple of Living Stones The temple made of wood and stone may crumble and decay But there's a viewless Fabrie which shall never fade away; Age after age the Masons strive to consummate the Plane But still the work's unfinished which th' immortal Three began; None but immortal eyes may new, complete in all its parts The Temple formed of Living Stones--the structure made of hearts. 'Neath every form of government, in every age and clime: Amid the world's convulsions and the ghastly wrecks of time.-- While empires rise in splendor, and are conquered and overthrown And cities crumble into dust, their very sites unknown,-- Beneath the sunny smiles of peace, the threatening frown of strife, Freemasonry has stood umnoved, with age renewed her life. She claims her votaries in all climes, for none are under ban Who place implicit trust in God, and love their fellow man; The heart that shares another's woe beats just as warm and true Within the breast of Christian, Mohammedan or Jew She levels all distinctions from the highest to the least,-- The King must yield obedience to the Peasant in the East. What honored names on history's page, o'er whose brave deeds we pore, Have knelt before our sacred shrine and trod our checkered floor ! Kings, princes, statesmen, heroes, bards who square their actions true, Between the Pillars of the Porch now pass in long review 0, Brothers, what a glorious thought for us to dwell upon,-- The mystic tie that binds our hearts bound that of Washington! Although our past achievements we with honest pride review As long as there's Rough Ashlars there is work for us to do We still must shape the Living Stones with instruments of love For that eternal Mansion in the Paradise above; Toil as we've toiled in ages past to carry out the plan,--
'Tis this;--the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of Man ! --Lawrence N. Greenleaf. Great Source of Light and Love! Great Source of light and love To Thee our songs we raise! Oh, in Thy- temple, Lord, above, Hear and accept our praise! Shine on this festive day! Succeed its hoped design; And may our Charity display A ray resembling Thine! May this fraternal Band, Now consecrated, blest In Pinion, all distinguished, stand, In Purity be dressed! May all the Sons of Peace Their every grace improve, Till discord through the nations cease, And all the world be Love! --Thaddeus Mason Harris.
Felloweraft's Song His laws inspire our being-- Our light is from His sun; Beneath the Eve All-Seeing, Our Mason's work is done His Plumb line in uprightness Our faithful guide shall be And in the Source of Brightness Our willing eyes shall see. Thou, Father, art the Giver To ever. earnest prayer! O. be the Guide forever To this, our Brother dear! By law and precept holy, By token, word and sign, Exalt him, now so lowly, Upon this Grand Design. Within thy Chamber name him A Workman, vise and true! While loving Crafts shall claim him In bonds of friendship due; Thus shall the w alls extol Thee, And future ages prove what Masons ever call Thee, The God of Truth and Love! ___ Rob Morris
For Auld Lang Syne Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to min'? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And days o' auld lang syne? For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne, We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet For auld lang syne. We twa hae rin about the braces, And pu'd the gowans fine But we've wandered monie a weary fit Sin' auld tang syne. We twa hae paidl't i' the burn, Frae mornin' sun til dine But scas between us braid hae roared Sin' auld lang syne. And here's a hand, my trusty fiery And gie's a hand o' thine Ane we'll tak a right guid willie-waught For auld lang syne. And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp, And surely I'll be mine And we'll tak a cup o' kindness yet For auld lang syne! --Robert Burns.
The verses sometimes called the Freemasons health and the Entered Apprentice's Song are found under the latter title in this work (see also Morris, Rob); Pike, Albert; Kipling, Rudyard, and Songs of Freemasonry).
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