Table of Contents

Benjamin Franklin
  1. What Though They Call Us Masons Fools
  2. The Fine Lady's Life by Henry Carey
  3. Fair Venus Calls
  4. The Antediluvians Were All Very Sober
  5. Firm Resolve
  6. Bio: Revolutionary Poet by Paul Royster


This song is unattributed, but the earliest version of it so far found was in Ben Franklin's reprint of Anderson's Constitutions of the Freemasons, published in 1734. A later version of it with numerous but insignificant changes in Laurence Dermott's 1756 Ahiman Rezon, gives the tune as being from "What Though They Call Me Country Lass". Long esses "ƒ" have been changed to modern "s" and a couple obvious typos corrected (seo to see, wnere to where), but otherwise this is Franklin's punctuation, capitalization, and spelling. Desart (3rd stanza) was probably an on-purpose misspelling of Desert to rhyme properly.
okl.

A New Song

I.
What though they call us Masons Fools,
We prove by Geometry and Rules,
We've Arts are taught in all our schools;
They charge us falsely then.
We make it plainly to appear,
By our Behaviour every where
That when you meet a Mason, there
You meet a Gentleman.

II.
'Tis true we once have charged been
With Disobedience to our Queen;
But after Monarchs plain have seen,
The Secrets they have sought.
We hatch no Plots against the State,
Nor 'gainst great Men in Power prate
But all that's generous, good and great
Is daily by us taught.

III.
What noble Structures do we see,
By ancient Brethren raised be!
The World's surpriz'd, and shall not we
Then honour Masonry?
Let those that do despise the Art,
Live in a Cave in some Desart,
And herd with Beasts from Men apart
For their Stupidity.

IV.
View but those Savage Nations, where
No Masonry did e'er appear,
What strange unpolish'd Brutes they are
Then honour Masonry.
It makes us courteous, easy, free,
Generous, honourable and gay;
What other Art the like can say?
Here's a Health to Masonry,


For comparison, here is the original song by Henry Carey (c.1687-1743) as later used in the play "The Provoked Husband: or, A Journey To London" a comedy by Sir John Vanbrugh and (Bro.) Colly Cibber, Esq.. Carey was a founder of the contra-Masonic Gormogons, but also wrote the music for the pro-Masonic play The Generous Freemason, so his Masonic status is problematical.

The Fine Lady's Life,

or

The Thoughts of an Ambitious Country Girl on the Pleasures of the Town.

What though they call me Country Lass;
I read it plainly in my Glass,
That for a Duchess I might pass!
O, could I see the day!
Would Fortune but attend my call,
At Park, at Play, at Ring, at Ball;
I'd brave the proudest of them all;
With a Stand by! Clear the way!

Surrounded by a crowd of Beaus,
With smart toupees and powdered clothes;
At rivals I'll turn up my nose!
O, could I see the day!
I'll dart such glances from these eyes.
Shall make some Lord, or Duke, my prize!
And then, O, how I'll tyrannize;
With a Stand by! Clear the way!

O, then for ev'ry new delight,
For equipage and diamonds bright,
Quadrille, and Plays, and Balls, all night!
O, could I see the day!
Of love and joy I'd take my fill!
The tedious hours of life to kill.
In ev'ry thing I'd have my will;
With a Stand by! Clear the way!

This was a drinking song, written c. 1741, and it is usually cited as being specifically a "Masonic" song, though there is no real Masonic content to it except that it was often sung at Masonic boards. The verses were sung by a soloist (Franklin himself, if he was about), while the choruses were sung by everyone to contradict and drown out the verse singer.

Fair Venus Calls

Fair Venus calls; her voice obey,
In beauty's arms spend night and day.
The joys of love all joys excel,
And loving's certainly doing well.
Chorus

Oh! no! Not so!
For honest souls know,
Friends and a bottle still bear the bell.

Then let us get money, like bees lay up honey;
We'll build us new hives, and store each cell.
The sight of our treasure shall yield us great pleasure;
We'll count it, and chink it, and jingle it well.

Chorus: Oh ! no! etc.

If this does not fit ye, let's govern the city,
In power is pleasure no tongue can tell;
By crowds though you're teased, your pride shall be pleased,
And this can make Lucifer happy in hell!

Chorus: Oh! no! etc.

Then toss off your glasses, and scorn the dull asses,
Who, missing the kernel, still gnaw the shell;
What's love, rule or riches? Wise Solomon teaches,
They're vanity, vanity, vanity still."
Final Chorus

That's true; he knew;
He'd tried them all through;
Friends and a bottle still bore the bell.

Ben's drinking songs were often intended for Masonic gatherings, and in Masonry's early history, Noah occupied the eminence which is now assigned to Hiram Abif.

The Antediluvians Were All Very Sober

The Antediluvians were all very sober
For they had no Wine, and they brew'd no October;
All wicked, bad Livers, on Mischief still thinking,
For there can't be good Living where there is not good Drinking.
Derry down

'Twas honest old Noah first planted the Vine,
And mended his Morals by drinking its Wine;
He justly the drinking of Water decried;
For he knew that all Mankind, by drinking it, died.
Derry down.

From this Piece of History plainly we find
That Water's good neither for Body or Mind;
That Virtue and Safety in Wine-bibbing's found
While all that drink Water deserve to be drowned.
Derry down

So For Safety and Honesty put the Glass round.

c.1745


Although not considered a Masonic poem by the uninitiated, I imagine that every true Mason will recognize a phrase or two in the first stanza of this verse.

Firm Resolve

Some have learned many tricks of sly evasion,
Instead of truth they use equivocation,
And eke it out with mental reservation,
Which, to good men, is an abomination.

Our smith of late most wonderfully swore,
That whilst he breathed he would drink no more,
But since, I know his meaning, for I think,
He meant he would not breathe whilst he did drink.

Poor Richard's Almanack, 1736

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Benjamin Franklin came to Philadelphia from Boston in 1723, and opened his own printing business in 1728. He began to publish the Pennsylvania Gazette in October of 1729 and became the official printer for the colony of Pennsylvania in 1731.

Franklin was admitted to the St. John's Lodge of Free-Masons in January of 1731, and Grand Master of Masons of Pennsylvania in June of 1734. He published his edition of The Constitutions of the Free-Masons in 1734.

[The above is just a condensed version of the longer version by Paul Royster attached to Anderson's Constitutions of the Freemasons, q.v.]

Ben wrote many poems, an overwhelming number if one includes all the couplets he composed for two decades of Poor Richard's Almanack. The sparse collection on this page are only those with some Masonic content or connection. If you know of any others that should be included here, please let us know.
okl.