Table of Contents

David Barker
  1. The Letter 'G'
  2. The Sign of Distress
  3. The Old Ship Of State
  4. The Templars
  5. My Last Request
  6. Never Get Ready To Die
  7. Give Them Bread and Not a Stone
  8. The Mason's Death and Burial
  9. John Warner's Not Dead
  10. Proposed Meeting of Northern and Southern Masons
  11. Welcome to Hugh De Payen Commandery
  12. Laying the Corner Stone, Exeter
  13. Light
  14. Try The Square
  15. Some notes on Brother David Barker by Jerry Leighton & Owen Lorion
Barker's Biography and Further Poems

There are some interesting comments on this poem by Jerry Leighton at the bottom of this page.

The Letter 'G'

He entered the lodge and filled each chair,
Was sent to the East and presided there,
He could give the lecture of each degree,
But fell down on the letter 'G'.

Though he said each head must "in honor bow",
Yet out of the Lodge he forgot, somehow,
For from his careless and prayerless lip,
The name Jehovah would oft times slip.

The Fellowcraft, too, when the Lodge was through
Listened as you and I would do,
But the work, though finely exemplified,
Was spoiled by his talk in the room outside.

For no one did as the Master said,
Not a "humble bow" from a single head.
So the Fellowcraft thought as he said goodnight,
"I will talk as before and 'twill be all right".

If Masonry does what we claim for it
We should guard our tongues lest we forget
To use that great high Name with care
While employed at work or engaged in prayer.

For the world is watching both you and me,
To see if we honor the letter 'G'.
And our lives and teachings they compare,
To see if we're plumb and on the square.

The Sign of Distress

'Twas a wild dreary night in the cheerless December,
'Twas a night only lit by a meteor's gleam;
'Twas the night of that night, I distinctly remember,
That my soul journeyed forth on the wings of a dream.

That dream found me happy, by tried friends surrounded,
Enjoying with rapture the comforts of wealth,
My cup overflowing, with blessings unbounded,
My heart fully charged from the fountains of health.

That dream left me wretched — by friendship forsaken,
Dejected, despairing, and wrapped in dismay,
By poverty, sickness and sorrow o'ertaken,
To every temptation and passion a prey,

In frenzy, the wine-cup I instantly quaffed at,
And habit and time made me quaff to excess,
But heated by wine, like a madman, I laughed at
The thought of e'er giving a Sign of Distress.

But wine sank me lower, by lying pretences,
It tattered my raiment and furrowed my face,
It palsied my sinews and pilfered my senses,
And forced me to proffer a Sign of Distress.

I reeled to a chapel where churchmen were kneeling,
And asking their Savior poor sinners to bless,
My claims I presented, the door of that chapel
Was slanmmed in my face at the Sign of Distress.

I strolled to the priest, to the servant of heaven,
And sued for relief with a wild eagerness;
He prayed that my sins might at last be forgiven,
And thought he had answered my Sign of Distress.

I staggered at last to the home of my mother,
Believing my prayers would meet with success;
But father, and mother, and sister and brother,
Disowned me, and taunted my Sign of Distress.

I lay down to die, as a stranger drew nigh me,
A spotless white lambskin adorning his dress,
My eye caught the emblem, and ere he passed by me,
I gave, as before, the sad Sign of Distress,

With Godlike emotions that messenger hastens
To grasp me, and whisper, "my brother, I bless
The hour of my life when I learned of the Masons,
To give and to answer your Sign of Distress."

Let a sign of distress by a Craftsman be given,
And though priceless to me is eternity's bliss,
May my name never enter the records of heaven,
Should I fail to acknowledge that Sign of Distress.

This was not intended as a Masonic poem, and the obvious references are to the Civil War, which raged when David was in his mid-40s. But it is cited in his biography as one of his best poems; and in it I also see a parallel to the current state of Freemasonry, struggling for survival in a changing world of today.

The Old Ship Of State

O'er the dark and the gloomy horizon that bounds her,
Thro' the storm and the night and the hell that surrounds her
I can see with a faith which immortals have given,
Burning words, blazing out o'er the portals of heaven,
"She will live!"

But a part of the freight that our forefathers gave her,
We must cast to the deep yawning waters to save her,
'Tis the chain for the slave we must fling out to light her,
'Tis the brand and the whip we must yield up to right her.
She will live.

Clean the decks of the curse — if opposed by the owner,
Hurl the wretch to the wave, as they hurled over Jonah,
With a "Freedom To All," gleaming forth from our banner,
Let the tyrant yet learn we have freemen to man her,
She will live.

She will live while a billow lies swelling before her,
She will live while the blue arch of heaven bends o'er her;
While the name of a Christ to the fallen we cherish,
Till the hopes in the breast of humanity perish,
She will live.

The Templars

Dedicated to the members of St. John's Encampment, Bangor, Maine.

Who aid the widows with their mites,
And guard the helpless virgin's rights?
A band of old and valiant Knights,
The Templars.

To save a friend, who walk around
With blood-stained feet, on frozen ground?
If any such are ever found
They're Templars.

Who shield the Christians as they kneel,
And wall them in with burnished steel,
And guard them well thro' woe and weal?
The Templars.

What men are those, despite of scars,
Who, facing flashing scimetars,
Defend the Cross in Holy Wars?
The Templars.

When Knights are called from "labor" here,
Who throng around the sable bier,
And drop the warm, fraternal tear?
The Templars.

God of our Craft, enable me
A faithful, worthy Knight to be,
And bring me home, at last, to Thee
A Templar.

My Last Request

Brethren of our mystic order,
Bound together by a tie,
Olden, sacred and enduring,
Come and see a Craftsman die.

Watch like angels round my pillow,
Till the ransomed spirit flies
To its Excellent Grand Master,
In His Lodge above the skies.

Oft we've met upon the Level,
Let us part upon the Square —
Perfect Ashlers in the temple,
May we meet together there.

Let no stranger's hand entomb me
Underneath the tufted sod,
None except a brother Mason
Should consign my dust to God.

Heave no formal sigh of sorrow
O'er the ashes of the,dead,
Only plant the priceless symbol,
Freshly blooming at my head.

When death's gavel sound shall call you
Off from Labor unto rest,
May you, Craftsmen, find Refreshment
In the mansions of the blest.

The next poem is not Masonic, but it appeared in the book immediately following the one above. It is inspirational, and the two together make nice counterpoints.

Never Get Ready To Die

Up, up, and give fight to the legions of wrong,
Give zealots and bigots the lie,
Who cantingly tell you, with faces so long,
That all should get ready to die.

This world is too full of your dying ones, now,
And we need in this terrible strife,
Not souls that are pining and fainting, I trow,
But souls that have vigor and life.

While one lift at humanity's wheels you can give,
Or one tear you can wipe from the eye,
Get ready, my brother, keep ready to live,
But never get ready to die.

[At a meeting of the Grand Lodge of Maine in 1851, a resolution was introduced authorizing the appropriation of a certain amount of the Lodge Funds for the purchase of a block for the Washington monument. The Hon. Comp. Ezra B. French, of Damariscotta, opposed the passage of the resolution in a very eloquent speech. In the course of his remarks he said: "When the orphan children of our dead brethren throng around us destitute and teaeful and ask for bread, will ye give them a stone?"]

Give Them Bread And Not A Stone

First dry that orphan's tears,
And hush that orphan's cries,
Then pile up, if ye will,
Your marble to the skies.

But, Craftsmen, spare that fund,
Part earnings of the dead,
A pittance laid aside
To buy their orphans bread.

Touch not a single dime,
But let that fund alone—
'Tis mocking God and man,
To barter it for stone.

'Tis better, better far,
No monument should rise,
To tell the hallowed spot
Where any hero lies,

Than that one orphan child
Should pine for want of bread,
Or gold be squandered off,
By which that child is fed.

First dry that orphan's tears,
And hush that orphan's cries,
Then pile up, if ye will,
Your marble to the skies.

The Mason's Death and Burial

The old church bell struck a startling note,
And sent forth a solemn knelling,
While every peal from his brazen throat
Of a sundered tie was telling.

And soon I heard from a Craftsman, woe,
And the summons hastily spoken,
That a brother was passed from the lodge below,
That a link in our chain was broken.

With a quivering lip and a glistening tear,
Each Craftsman speedily hurried
To see that the cold, pale sleeper there,
In an ancient form was buried.

We laid him down in his lonely tomb,
Our hearts o'ercharged with sorrow,
But saw through the mystic sprig in bloom
The gleam of a brighter morrow.

The sickening sound of the falling sod,
Which covered our brother's coffin,
Was lost in the wails that rose to God
From the widowed wife and orphan.

Ah, little they dreamed in that darksome hour,
When the bitter tears were gushing,
And fell despair, with a tyrant's power,
The stricken heart was crushing,

Of a pledge we breathed to our brother at rest,
Who lies in his narrow coffin,
A balm that shall soothe the troubled breast.
Of that widowed wife and orphan.

John Warner, of Kenduskeag, a member of Pacific Lodge, Exeter, Me., No. 64, and of the 2d Maine Regimlent, was accidentally shot in camp, at Hall's Hill, Va., Feb. 24, 1862, and was buried with Masonic honors at Kenduskeag, March 7, 1862.

John Warner's Not Dead

Why mourn you — the Craft? for John Warner's not dead,
Though his body lies pulseless and still,
That missile which forced its fierce way through the head,
No real John Warner could kill.

John Warner's not dead, though the casket is dumb,
But has gone on a mission of love,
With his Compass and Square, with his Level and Plumb,
To his work in the Grand Lodge above.

John Warner's not dead, but will often return,
And oft in our Lodge will appear,
And o'er his cold ashes which lie in the urn,
Will whisper the Word in our ear.

John Warner's not dead — by each hope in my breast,
I would swear on this spot where I stand,
That since the last sun sank in silence to rest,
I have felt the Strong Grip from his hand.

Written for the Proposed Meeting

of Northern and Southern Masons in Massachusetts

Craftsmen, craving kindly greeting,
Doff your blue and gray,
Let us hold one cordial meeting
On the Square, to-day.

Whether coming from our regions,
Where the pine-tree grows —
Whether coming from your legions,
Where the orange blows;

From plebeians, or from princes,
Owning gold or dross,
Sing we "in hoc, signo vinces,"
Marching 'round the Cross.

If war's thundering roar and rattle
Haunt our memories still,
Let them come from that old battle
Fought on Bunker's Hill;

Let each blackened corpse of passion,
In its casements rot —
Plant no mystic sprig Acacian
E'er to mark the spot.

Let us bury feuds, forever,
Deep in common graves;
Let us quaff, for now or never,
From Lethean waves.

When we cross the final ferry,
Claiming earth no more —
When we step from out the wherry,
On that distant shore,

We will strike one harp and tymbal
At the master's calls;
We will use one word and symbol
In the mystic halls.

A Welcome

To the Hugh De Payen Commandery
of Knights Templar,

Melrose, Massachusetts, at Bangor, July 20, 1869.

Craftsmen, listen to my sayings:—
Welcome, welcome, Hugh De Payens,
From old Massachusetts Bay,
To our climes where Boreas bloweth,
Where the sturdy pine-tree groweth,
Welcome to our shores to-day.

From your land, with age so hoary,
Land of pilgrim, song and story,
From your living streets and marts,
From your sacred soil of Warren,
Welcome to our cliffs, though barren,
Welcome to our homes and hearts.

Welcome as the old Crusader,
From the Palestine invader
Bringing back the sabre scar,
Mid the songs and feasts and dances,
And the flash of virgin glances,
Making sweet the fruits of war.

Gallant members of our order
Who have crossed the Cyprian border,
Join us in a song to-day,
With a curse (and not a lament)
For a Philip and a Clement,
And a tear for De Molay.

Banish now each cankering sorrow,
Banish each fear of to-morrow,
While we gather round our feast;
While the thought of rank we smother,
Welcome here each "Serving Brother,"
Welcome "Knight" and welcome "Priest."*

Welcome here each sworn defender
Of the helpless virgin tender,
And the ancient Calvary cross;
Bear it, like our Great Exemplar,
Bear it, patiently, each Templar,
Though the end be gain or loss.

When the full earth path we travel,
And the click of Death's dark gavel
Falls upon the leaden ear,
May we meet the Prince of princes
Shouting "in hoc signo vinces,"
In some new, celestial sphere.

* Three classes of the "Order of the Temple" in the 12th Century, viz:- "Serving Brothers," "Knights" and "Priests."

Laying the Corner Stone,

Trinity Church, Exeter

Let your mitred Bishop stand
By this upturned yielding sod,
And with consecrated hand
Lay your corner stone to God.

Then with skillful builders' care
Rear aloft your sacred dome,
Raise your steeple high in air
Pointing to a spirit home.

Let no bitter burning brawls
Foully nursed by blended zeal
Ever echo round your walls —
Fatal as the cannon's peal.

To your robed and tutored Priest —
Acting here his Rector's part —
Let me hold some thoughts at least,
Gushing warmly firom my heart.

Whether pleasure come or pain,
Whether worldly gain or loss,
When the crucible you drain,
Give us gold, refined from dross.

With a scholar's loyal lore,
And a heart imbued with love,
Ever guard your chalel door,
As they guard the gates above.

Though your armor bids you face
All the elements of strife,
It will elevate your race
To a higher plain of life.

Preach the everlasting word
Free from innovated taints —
Preach the Christ that Peter heard
As he journeyed with the Saints.

By the help of Him who died
Aided by redemption's plan,
Bridge the chasm deep and wide
That has yawned 'twixt God and man.


Brothers, are you faint and weary,
Is your pathway dark and dreary;
Doubt, nor fear, nor falter never,
Let this be your watchword, ever,

Better days may soon be dawning,
Darkest hours give birth to morning;
Yield not to the fiend Despair,
Keep in mind old Ajax's prayer —

Ask no garb from Nemean lion,
But with heart, and nerves of iron,
Fight your fight in fearless manner,
With this motto on your banner —

Light to stamp each sin with terror,
Light to hunt and banish error,
Light to kill or weaken sorrow,
Light to gild a better morrow —

Light to make oppression falter,
Light from truth's own burning altar,
Light to shine on hearts benighted,
Light to see each wrong is righted

While one intellect is clouded,
While one soul in sin is shrouded,
While a world for light is dying,
Brother, never cease your crying

The following is another poem not found in the book.

Try The Square

Is a Brother off the track?
Try the Square;
Try it well on every side.
Nothing draws a craftsman back
Like the Square when well applied.
Try the Square.

Is he crooked, is he frail?
Try the Square;
Try it early, try it late;
When all other efforts fail,
Try the Square to make him straight —
Try the Square.

This was found as preface to an article on an anti-Masonic website, which credited it as quoted from "A Treasury of Masonic Thought, Robert Hale, London 1981." [Hale was the publisher, editor was Carl Glick, and it was first published in 1950 or 1953.]

Some Notes On Brother David Barker

Jerry wrote: First let me say that the purpose of this [web site was originally] to publish and share the works of our contemporary peers, but the circumstances under which this poem [The Letter G] was brought to light deserves special attention. This piece was given me on a December visit to Pacific Lodge #64 in Exeter, Maine, USA. An elder brother solemnly handed me a well worn piece of linen note paper. Printed upon the page by an ancient typewriter was "The Letter G". The Brother informed me that a Past Master by the name of David Barker had written the piece.

Upon further questioning I found that a volume of poems by Brother Barker was carefully preserved in the lodge archives and has since been presented to me for temporary safekeeping. Although Worshipful Brother Barker passed from our mortal sight on the 14th of September 1874, the lesson of this powerful piece transcends the missing years.


Owen wrote: Searching online for any more of Brother Barker's poems, I found an entire book of them at the University of Michigan Digital Library. Included were an 11 page biography and other materials. But it didn't include the poem Jerry printed above. So I don't know if it's the same book that Jerry has or a different one. Anyway, clicking on the Biography link in the table of contents on this page will get you to the biographical section of that book, with links to the rest of the poems. And I've also pulled out the Masonic poems and added them to this page, as well. Any uncredited notes above are from the the book, which was edited posthumously by his brother Lewis. It seems likely Lewis was not a Mason, since I've included at least two poems with what I felt was Masonic content, but which Lewis had not included in his "Masonic" classification, and left out at least one Lewis had assumed was Masonic.