Table of Contents

John Edmund Barss
  1. The Mystery Of Words Well Said
  2. A Mason's Greeting
  3. A Man's Work In The World
  4. A Brief Bio of J.E. Barss


The Mystery Of Words Well Said

There is a mystery of words well said,
And many labor in that craft; but few
Avail to win the worship which is due
The Master, of his work accredited.

To some the days their own fulfillment bear,
Night healeth all their languors, and content
Sweetly attends their task's accomplishment —
A measured portion, and an equal care.

But these are not the Master — not the priest
Of those high mysteries of words well said;
But lesser workmen, toiling in his stead:
For evermore his travail is increased

Until that he shall frame that greater Word
Whereat, sublime and perfect, walks the Man;
As once where Pison and Euphrates ran
Eastward from Eden, garden of the Lord.

from The Builder, July, 1915


This poem has been widely reprinted with the author erroneously listed as John Edmund Bass.

A Mason's Greeting

To all who hope for life beyond this living,
To all who reverence one holy Name —
Whose liberal hand will not be stayed from giving,
Who count all human fellowship the same;
Whose lives ascent in wisdom, strength, and beauty,
Stone upon stone, square-hewn and founded well,
Who love the light — who tread the path of duty;
Greet you well, brethren! Brethren, greet you well!

from The Builder, March, 1916.


This was titled just "The Work" in The Builder, but since that could be confused with a subject of ritual work, it has been given a fuller title here; and spacing between stanzas has been added. okl.

A Man's Work In The World

Scarce two-score years had passed him; and they cried,
"See how the mists of dawn have kept their rose!
Linger and dream a little." But he said,
"Nay, I must do a man's work in the world,"
And passing, left them.
And the years flowed by,
Bringing him opulence of goods and fame,
Enriched with wife, and children, and success.

Then some besought him: "Rest a little now,
And mark the glory of thy noon-tide sun."
But he, "Not yet: these hours are best for toil,
And I must do a man's work in the world."

Then old age came and walked with him, and one
Whispered, "At last rejoice in thy great deeds;
Take time for satisfaction: Be content."
"And still not yet!" he answered; "all my years
At length have taught me justice, and at length
I know that kindness is man's greatest due
To man: I crave one moment to be kind
To him who was mine enemy long since."

Then out of all the world, in sore distress,
Returned his enemy; and at the last
He gave him succor, and the coals of hate
Died to white ashes, whiter than his hair;
And there sprang up and blossomed for a day
The rose of love between them, like the dawn.
Then death came; and he smiled, "Now may I rest,
For I have done a man's work in the world."

from The Builder, February, 1918.

John Edmund Barss, M.A.

Compiled from Internet resources. okl.

Born 1871 or 1872 in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada to Elisabeth and Dr. Thomas Barss. He married Emma Sedgwick Knight 14 Jun 1899, and they had 2 children, John & Elizabeth. Brother Barss was for 26 years teacher of Latin at the Hotchkiss School, Lakeville, Conn.; was a teacher for a time at Roxbury (Mass.) Latin School; and was a teacher at the Loomis School, Windsor, Conn. from 1919 until his death. He died at Windsor November 21, 1944.


Partial Bibliography:
Beginning Latin
Cornelius Nepos Selected Lives 1896
Obiter Scripta 1908
Writing Latin (2 vol.) 1910
Orations of Cicero, 1929