This poem is not Masonic, but included because of its similarity
to Victor Roy, A Masonic Poem,
by Harriet Annie Wilkins.
The Priest of Camajore
- A warm light lay upon the sea,
- And filled the West with golden glory,
- As sailed a ship from Italy;
- Not far from the town of Camajore.
- High leaped the prow as out she flew:
- The waves that kissed her lightly curled;
- And far across the moving blue,
- She sailed unto a newer world.
- Ah, me! what eyes were on that ship!
- And followed her till darkness, growing,
- Drew out the moon, a silver strip,
- And set the stars with lavish sowing.
- Ah, me, what eyes, foreclosed of day,
- Yet often to the beach returned,
- To watch the ship-light's waning ray,
- That o'er the waters dimly burned!
- I know not. Sure the eyes of three,
- Watched from the highest promontory.
- The wife of Beppo Alvini,
- And her two sons from Camajore.
- She saw the stately ship depart;
- Long time she watched her cleave the foam;
- Then clasped her children to her heart,
- And sadly sought her broken home.
- For Beppo long had held design,
- To find some land of larger yield,
- Than that which bore his stunted vine:
- Some better than his barren field.
- Nor ceased, or rested he till now
- When gathering up his little hoard,
- With sweat of anguish on his brow,
- The parting done, he stood on board.
- For strong of faith his plans were made,
- As Hope shone like a rising star,
- The center of his purpose laid,
- In fields of far America.
- God wot! they'd not have long to wait!
- In that land stored with everything,
- He'd get a fortune, swift and great,
- And make them richer than the King!
- Oh, that was trial hard to stand,
- When to the margin of the bay —
- One child he held and by the hand
- The other led — they took their way;
- When breaking from a long embrace,
- And clasping but to part once more,
- He kissed their tears with anguished face,
- And blessed them oft; then left the shore. '
- Twas over! Oh, to him who goes
- Not half the pain of parting falls!
- For change and scene are quick to close
- The doors that lead through Sorrow's halls.
- Far harder for the one who stays,
- Where every scene suggests the change:
- And makes the most familiar ways,
- Without the well-known presence, strange.
- And harder now for her to bear
- Her trials and the clogs that stand
- About her round of work and care,
- Bereft of Beppo's helping hand:
- But yet she lulled her griefs to rest,
- And felt her vague Faith still increase,
- That all was ordered for the best,
- And bore the fruits of final Peace.
- A woman all unlearned was she:
- Her race in humble rank had stood;
- But true in wifely fealty,
- And all the ties of motherhood.
- Unskilled to either write or read,
- And Beppo, having this in view,
- Besought the good Priest in her need,
- To speak and write between the two;
- While he, of better-cultured powers,
- Would send by every vessel out,
- To break the force of anxious hours,
- And lonesome moments put to rout.
- So oft the question she referred,
- With faith such as the simple use —
- In full reliance on his word —
- "Good Father! hast thou any news?"
- Aye had he news — one evil day,
- Such as o'ertakes us late or soon,
- As friends and kin are snatched away
- In every land beneath the moon!
- News that must on us all attend;
- Aye news — sad news — the good Priest said,
- There was a letter — from some friend —
- That Beppo Alvini was dead!
- Dead! Beppo dead! Oh, then for her
- The stars had fallen from the sky;
- The sun was but a misty blur,
- The round moon but a clouded eye.
- All gone! She called her eldest child,
- And stroking soft his curly head,
- At times with bursts of weeping wild,
- Then calming more, to him she said;
- "My Guilio, wilt thou live for me?
- My son, thy Father is no more!
- Live, live my son! Oh, live to be
- My stay in this affliction sore!"
- And he, too young to understand,
- With childish wonder in his face,
- First wept, then laid a chubby hand
- About her neck, in close embrace.
- Then in her widow's garments clad,
- The woman, in her desolation,
- Oft sought the Priest; who ever had
- Some precious words of consolation.
- And many a day the Mass was said,
- For Beppo's soul in Purgatory.
- God rest the souls of happy dead!
- So prayed the Priest of Camajore.
- But what of Beppo? How fared he?
- What chances did his steps attend?
- A speedy sail: fair winds and sea,
- Had brought him to his journey's end.
- I trow there was not gold to get
- In such profusion as he thought:
- And often dearth of work: but yet
- With patient mind he toiled and wrought,
- And saved each little scrap and sum,
- Till, put to profit o'er and o'er,
- His scanty dole had now become,
- A rounded out and goodly store
- With ready yield. And constant he —
- It grew the pleasure of his life —
- Sent grateful sums to Italy,
- To shield from want his patient wife,
- And wrote: "Good Father! wilt thou see
- She lacks for nothing? What I send
- Shall doubled, even thribbled be,
- If necessary for that end!
- And ask her, for me, that she give
- Some better schooling to our two
- Than we have had: for if I live,
- We'll one day turn out well-to-do."
- Oh, how he loved the trusted Priest
- Who had so oft his heart beguiled;
- Who in long time had never ceased
- To send him word of wife and child!
- "Thy Guilio now is fat and stout.
- And Luigi with rosy cheeks.
- The rascal, how he rolls about! —
- So like his Father when he speaks!"
- And: "Look, this is Luigi's scrawl!"
- And: "Here the spot that Guilio kissed" —
- Ah! well he knew the chords to call
- In absent eyes a rising mist!
- At last, as means were easier grown,
- The man wrote back: "Tell them, for me,
- When these three summer months have flown,
- I sail for dear old Italy!"
- A little time it was to wait —
- A fragment from the flow of years —
- A little while — yet amply great
- For deeds that yield the fruit of tears.
- And half the days were scarce gone by
- When fell to him an advent dread;
- There came the Priest's unloved reply,
- That wife and children both were dead.
- Were dead! All dead! For in the town
- A grievous fever had prevailed;
- And from the dense air smitten down,
- Till many a wife and mother wailed.
- And they had not been spared — the three,
- Despite all human aid to heal.
- And lo, the dark reality
- Was tested by official seal.
- Oh, then did stricken Beppo go
- Unaimed and guideless in despair.
- As downy flakes do shift and blow
- About in vacant wastes of air
- Unfixed: his moods of sombre hue,
- And from companions held aloof,
- With mutterings: "Aye, it must be true!
- For here I have the certain proof!"
- Ah! well that sorrow does not last
- Like dyes that long their tints retain,
- But fades, like water-colors cast
- To catch the plashing of the rain.
- Else would the mind and heart be cleft
- By far too sharp for human peace,
- And, all their lights gone out, be left
- To brood in darkness and to cease.
- More firmly fixed in joy: in length
- Far more enduring: stronger grown:
- Let joy and sorrow measure strength,
- And joy lies prostrate; overthrown.
- Yet not like brazen figures cast —
- And God be thanked that it is so —
- Like snow-heaps, that, the Winter past,
- In Summer's brilliance slowly go.
- So Beppo came in time to feel
- Some gleams of sunshine on him fall:
- To find his wounded spirit heal,
- And joy at times her warmth recall.
- Yet ever present in his mind
- One pulse of strong intention rose.
- To seek their resting-place, and find
- The spot that marked their last repose.
- And in his shrunken spirit he
- This purpose held for heavy years,
- Till hoarded means should leave him free
- To see the world in wider spheres.
- At last he planned long journeys, by
- A maze of tangled travel-lines,
- To reach his native land, and spy,
- Once more her hillsides draped with vines.
- And so in early Fall, before
- The maple's russet blush had burned,
- He stood on fair Italia's shore,
- A weary wanderer home returned.
- To Camajore straight he drew,
- But here he found that all was strange.
- At first no gazing face he knew;
- So perfect is the work of change.
- And down the Plaza thoroughfare,
- Strode he on his arrival morn,
- To find the very dwelling where
- He lived: where were his children born.
- But other homes the grounds employ;
- And turning, sad and drearily,
- A ragged, poor, bare-breasted boy,
- Drew nigh and begged a charity.
- No thing infrequent in the ways
- And customs of that sunny land;
- But something rested Beppo's gaze,
- Upon this lad with outstretched hand;
- And casual question made him make;
- "What is thy name, my son?" And he,
- Still lingering while the stranger spake;
- "My name is Guilio Alvini!"
- "Alvini, thou? Great God! And where
- Thy mother, child?" "In yonder low
- And broken cot!" "Quick, lead me there!"
- And down the crook'd and tumbling row
- Of rotten buildings Beppo sped;
- And bursting in cried: "Look! 'Tis I!
- Tis Beppo! I have thought thee dead
- While all these weary years went by!"
- "Where wert thou, wife? Speak! Speak!" But she
- Too overcome to make reply,
- Could only clasp him tremblingly,
- And sink down with a feeble cry.
- But next, through rapid question made,
- And answer quick as throbbing heart,
- The monster fraud was all displayed,
- That kept them years and years apart:
- That worked its unblest method through
- Two worlds, despite dividing sea;
- Stripped lives of promised sweets, and drew
- The hard result of poverty:
- Dulled hearts with grief: dimmed eyes: and gave
- The issue wrenched from honest toil,
- As tribute to one crafty knave,
- Who basked and fattened on the spoil.
- Then outraged Beppo rushed to find
- The plotter of this cruel course.
- And seizing him, with fury blind,
- Clutched his false throat with throttling force;
- "Thou craven priest! Hast thou not taught
- Whom God hath joined let no man part?
- And now behold thy fiendish thought,
- Hath planned this scheme with crafty art."
- "Thou shall receive thy just reward!
- Thy sin hath found thee out! Full well
- Thou'lt need to beg thy Lord's regard,
- When resting in a felon's cell!"
- All white and trembling fell the Priest,
- And prayed with offers manifold,
- Large price to pay were he released;
- But, ah! some crimes o'erbalance gold.
- Then forth into the brawling street
- Went Beppo, casting to the winds
- The depth and vileness of the cheat,
- As now and then some friend he finds.
- And men caught here and there the tale,
- Which waxed and grew until it gained
- Official ears: and straight to gaol,
- They led the culprit bound and chained.
- And Beppo's comrades round him drew
- To see once more their fellow, whom
- They looked on as a Lazarus new,
- Snatched from the keeping of the tomb;
- But found no hint of change was there
- In mien of feature, save, alway,
- That Time about his glossy hair
- Had blown a silver mist of gray.
- And Justice, in her robes of state,
- Closed on the doer of the wrong.
- Pray God she have not long to wait
- To seal him in a dungeon strong!
- There let him lie and wither! Let
- Some other tongue relate the story,
- What end the pining villain met:
- The wretched Priest of Camajore!
This poem was about a malaria epidemic which struck Memphis, TN
in the summer of 1878.
Only the final two verses are included here, since they have the only Masonic
content, but they sound an appeal that could just as easily apply to any
disaster that has struck any place since then.
The Stricken City
Memphis, in 1878
Arise, O brothers, through this wide domain!
Stretch out thine hands! Thy fellows lie in pain!
Give forth thy goods as freely as the rain!
That need ye may with some relief endow;
Some comfort yield the anguish-stricken brow.
The time for doing noble deeds is Now.
From Virginia Masonic Journal, Richmond, Va., Dec., 1908.
It is placed at this point because it is the same as verses 1 and 5 of the poem
Tenebrae on pages 285-289 of Poems, except for the last line.
Tenebrae was "written for the Press Convention of Arkansas," and refered to
the Press as the Light.
Let There Be Light
In far-off regions of primeval Night,
The voice of God decreed, "Let there be light!"
And there was light. The Sun's resplendent face
Burst into life, and darkness fled apace.
The gentle Day stole o'er the firmament,
And East and West it's rosy presence went.
Then Moon and Star stood forth in milder guise,
To deck the chambers of the azure skies;
And all was light, and in perfection stood,
And God, beholding, saw that it was good.
So once again, in those grave days of need,
The voice of God compassionate decreed:
"Let there be light!" and once more was there light.
For lo, as if a sunbeam, through the night,
Should upward shoot its long and streaming mark
And cleave a passage through the somber dark,
There rose a light, whose all-sufficient reign
Has swept the world into its wide domain —
'Twas Masonry divine.
On the Death of Alfred Tennyson
- Dead wizard of the world of song,
- The hearts of myriads, loving thee,
- Are dull with grief at that decree
- Which called thee from the mortal throng;
- And I, who am the least of those
- Who listened to thy honeyed tongue,
- And drank the mellow verse that rung,
- When the flames of thought within thee rose;
- Approach not now thine open grave,
- And seek to weave a wreath of verse,
- Nor o'er thee willow leaves disperse,
- That I some small attention crave;
- But like as when the Craft doth mourn,
- Those Brothers of the Mystic Tie;
- When from their circle one doth die,
- And to his resting place is borne;
- I make the sign; I beat the time ;
- I cast my sprig of evergreen,
- And trust I have thy Brother been
- In wide Freemasonry of rhyme.
- Thy Brother? Not to rank with thee.
- Thy heights I cannot climb to them;
- I stoop to kiss thy garment's hem,
- In hinting at fraternity.
- A smaller claim my senses seek;
- A lesser joinder: like as we
- May match such things as do agree
- In some small point, however weak.
- I look on those whose hearts are rilled
- With tuneful beats, which Verse excites,
- Who find in Poesy delights,
- As members of one common guild;
- So feel it not presumptuous wrong,
- To speak of being joined with thee,
- Though boundless distance in degree,
- Doth bar me from thy raptured song.
- I sit so far within the shade,
- That men may say I make pretense,
- And mine occasion gives offense,
- If I should mourn o'er thy decade.
- May not the humblest tone that's rapt
- From out the sweep of some old harp,
- Receive a discord, harsh and sharp,
- When that the leading string is snapped?
- And if I be the smallest chord
- In all the wide world's minstrelsy,
- Yet felt a grief when unto thee,
- There came the summons of the Lord.
- I may not find the line or word,
- To shadow forth the sense of loss,
- I felt upon my spirits cross;
- Nor how my being's depths were stirred
- When through the Ocean's void there flew,
- The subtle wings that men release,
- That brought the news of thy decease,
- Yet I shall feel it, through and through.
- Shall feel a sadness, o'er and o'er,
- In moving through the days to come,
- To think thy voice forever dumb,
- And men shall see thee nevermore;
- Nor ever feel the sentient powers
- That gave the life to meager things;
- That wove the deeds of Knights and Kings,
- Through crownings of their finer hours;
- With color flashing through the lines,
- And sweetness seeming all thine own;
- As, hedged within a glamour thrown,
- The star of Romance brighter shines,
- And lives; until, with furrowed brow,
- We look the living region through,
- And sadly ask the question: "Who
- Can fill the Laureate's office now?'*
- For who can weave the dainty thread;
- The fitting word: the rythmic phrase;
- Or go from theme to theme and raise
- To life, expression lying dead?
- For unto him did Nature give
- The range of all her vast concern;
- With power to make her passions turn,
- And all her varied phases live;
- To paint, with deftest touches, free,
- And drawn through Inspiration high,
- The glowing tints of field and sky,
- In clouds of raptured reverie.
- O rounded moon, that risest clear,
- And lookest down with glances cold;
- Thy flood of silver doth enfold
- The windy downs of Haslemere;
- And, through the creeping shadows sent,
- Mayhap some passing ray may rest
- One instant o'er the tranquil breast,
- That lies in shroud and cerement;
- Or gleam above the comely head,
- With wavering touch of dark and bright;
- To play about the walls; and light
- The features of the noble dead:
- Thine orbit's wide immensity,
- And, in thine eternal round,
- Hath never shone above, or found,
- A sweeter singer born than he.
- And fit it seems in human eyes,
- For so he loved thy glamour bright,
- That thou should'st give thy widest light,
- To waft his soul to Paradise.
- O Death, thy numbing touch hath wrought
- Such change upon the Master Mind:
- Yet in the printed tome we find
- The golden ore of garnered thought;
- Of FAITH, that breathes with living breath;
- And LOVE, that thrills in pulse and frame;
- Of HOPE, and, that which chief became,
- The calm PHILOSOPHY of DEATH.
- And still when cycled times are done,
- As men drink in the mellow lay,
- Shall many a grateful spirit say;
- "O God, be thanked for such an one."
October 8, 1892.
To a Correspondence Report
Look long, O tired eyes, to see
If in yon tomes some treasures be.
Dig deep, if haply ye may find
Some hidden meaning of the mind:
Some pearl of Thought; or latent hint
Of Knowledge, rich in tone and tint :
As one might softly walk amid
The silent forms of Knowledge hid :
And touching one by one awake
Each sleeping form to life; and make
Each gem to take its proper place,
Arrayed for beauty and for grace;
So may this gleaning prove to gain
A winnowing of goodly grain :
The fruits of widely scattered seed ;
To serve, mayhap, a passing need,
In its message to the few who read.
Sung by tbe author to original music, at Lodge of Sorrow in Little
Rock, held April 10th, 1891, the day of the burial in Washington City
of Albert Pike. The first verse by Thomas Montgomery.
- "There is a calm for those who weep:
- A rest for weary pilgrims found.
- They softly lie and sweetly sleep,
- Low in the ground; low in the ground."
- Sleep, dreamless head, in endless peace;
- And be thy slumbers soft and sound:
- There where all pain and sorrows cease;
- Low in the ground; low in the ground.
- Sleep thou, by care no more oppressed;
- Where tears and grief no more are found:
- Till God shall call us all who rest
- Low in the ground; low in the ground.
Is it the lees of life, and nothing more,
When the years have come to the triple score?
Is it only the close of a Winter's day,
Where the sunshine fades in the West away?
Is it only the tip of the mountain crest,
Where the lingering rays of the sunlight rest;
And where, through the mists of the Past, are seen
The ghosts of the joys that once have been;
While down in the valley, far below,
Lie the graves of the things of Long Ago?
Nay, nay. Not that. For he who holds
By the simple faith that the World enfolds,
Finds, unto Life's last, feeblest spark,
That the daylight far exceeds the dark;
That the Seasons bring, as they glide away,
More days of brightness than days of gray;
That the Spring gives place, in its varying moods,
To the mellowing tints of the Autumn woods;
And stars come out in the evening air,
Which we fail to see in the noonday glare.
And here, as I backward turn mine eye,
O'er the faded days that behind me lie,
How like a flitting glimpse appears,
The vista made by these sixty years!
Gone; and forever. Beyond recall,
Each deed of itself to stand or fall,
In the eyes of Him who judgeth all.
But yet we cling to the firmer hope,
That each will be seen in its wider scope;
And out of His mercy we be hailed
With large allowance where we failed.
As the day dies out in a golden gleam,
And the red West glows with its parting beam;
So would I, friends, when it comes my lot,
Wish to depart thus calmly, and not
As the Old Year passes, sad and slow,
Wrapped in the shroud of the Winter's snow;
But the rather in twilight, fair and clear,
Where the quivering discs of the stars appear.
This poem won me the Laureacy. It was written on the occasion of
my sixtieth birthday. F. H.
Poem At Laureation
Strike hands with me, O Brethren mine;
And hear me, each, with hand in thine,
If yet that grace reside in me,
Make promise for the Time to be.
If that the Muse, of measure true,
Doth not in listless fashion, through
The slow decease of high desire,
Sit silent by a faded fire:
If yet there comes, in finer hour,
Some lingerings of that Spirit's power,
That creeps within the inner soul,
Her gems of beauty to unroll:
O then, I trust, if even slight,
Some ray of that ungoverned light
Upon my waiting soul may stream,
And light it with her clearest beam:
May wake to life this feeble tongue,
To sing deep lays, as yet unsung;
Then will my Spirit joy amain;
As thirsting plants drink grateful rain.
If so, O then, I dedicate
Whatever strength that, soon or late,
May come to me, to this fair Cause,
Wrought out through scope of higher laws;
That all that beareth Beauty's name,
Be hailed with welcome and acclaim;
The Good be ever forward set;
The cause of Truth be stronger yet.
So may it be. That grace abide,
In gentle measure by my side!
God grant my life, imperfect here,
Some essence from that higher sphere!
Chicago, October 5th, 1908.
City by the inland sea,
Fair thy borders seem to me;
As memory, backward turning, gleans
A fruitful harvest from thy scenes.
Long hath my vision wandered through
Yon water's trembling fields of blue;
And watched the feathered waves that break
By the walk-way, wrested from the lake.
Fair lie thy terraced hillocks, hard
By miles of level boulevard;
Where scarce for speed mine eyes descry
The forms that flit like arrows by.
Ah me! The Parks, with verdure mown;
The trees, with branching arms outspread,
With long leaves quivering overhead;
The statued forms, that lordly stand;
The buds; the blooms, on every hand;
The Palaces, with gardens fair;
The towering structures, high in air;
The long streets, stolen from the Night,
With the dazzling glow of their changing light;
All these come back, and more unnamed,
Like a pleasing picture, golden-framed.
But yet, O City, more than this,
Aye more than all thy splendor is,
I hold that high fraternal care,
That fills the breasts of the breatheren there.
The kindly word, the grasp of hand;
The thrill that the soul can understand.
Full well I know, O bretheren, ye
Gave a brother's greeting unto me;
In words whose kind uplifting cheers
My heart through the waste of the fleeting years;
In deeds of which the sweetness folds
Over all for me that the Future holds.
City by the inland sea,
Ever will I cherish thee,
As the homestead of Fraternity.
And long may this gentle spirit grace
The Craft in each abiding-place;
And Joy bestow on all her crown,
To last as long as the stars shine down.
October 21, 1908
"Laurel Crown that Camest to Me"
Laurel crown that camest to me,
As least among the favored three;
Look down the while my soul receives
The lesson of thy gleaming leaves.
What counsel dost thou bring to me,
Thou emblem of Eternity;
In that thou, circle-wise, doth bend,
With not beginning, nor with end?
A charge, with deepest meaning fraught,
Is in thy twisted branches taught
In that thou standest unto me
As the voice of a great Fraternity;
A voice that spake from shore to shore;
And by the message that it bore
Hath made me debtor, evermore.
But deeper yet thy worth shall be,
O circlet fair, if unto me
Thou bringest back, through kinder ways,
The Summer warmth of earlier days;
Of days when Life was fresh, and through
Its varied changes Pleasure drew;
When Fancy, wakened, wandered far;
And Hope shone like a rising star;
When Nature gave, in accent fine,
Her solace in the sighing pine;
When Autumn held her riches spread
In oaken branches, splotched with red;
Days when, unvexed with passing harm,
Each hour was bright, and brought its charm;
Days lying in a fairy land,
When Youth and Warmth went hand in hand.
Nay, nay. Thou can'st not. Nor can'st bring
To Autumn's chill the flush of Spring.
Thy power to do is dwarfed and strait.
The Past is past, and sealed of Fate.
I can but turn mine eyes to rest
On yon light, fading in the West;
And see, below the purpling skies,
Its glow die out, no more to rise.
Stead me, laurel crown, to be
Strong and loyal unto thee.
And lift me, by some potent spell,
To heights wherein the Muses dwell;
That there some sacred spark may roll,
Like lightning-flash upon my soul;
And wake some burst of melody,
To make its way from sea to sea;
Like wind-blown seeds to find a place
To grow in vigor and in grace.
Laurel crown, henceforward be
Guide and guerdon unto me.
November 1, 1908
To the Great Organ at Ravenswood
- Roll down in volume vast and grand,
- O organ tones of tenderest strain;
- And let thy clear notes swell amain,
- Waked by a master hand.
- And from thy lofty alcove, long
- In gentlest measures, far and near,
- Thy message to the listening ear
- Shall float in cadence strong.
- And who shall tell the joy of these
- Who listen to thy mellow voice,
- And feel the secret soul rejoice
- In chords from out thy keys;
- Or lift the thought to higher place,
- And find their inmost Being thrill
- To hear the plaintive treble trill ;
- Or rumblings of the bass.
- As oft as thou, in rhythmic flow,
- Breakest out in sweetest melody,
- To fill the heaviest heart with glee,
- Through flute and tremolo.
- Or yet the ecstasy prolong,
- As with thy notes, in mingled strains,
- Some glorious voice in fervor gains
- A burst of triumph-song.
- And rises on, attuned with thee,
- A higher vocal force to win;
- Till tone and phrasing usher in
- The hour of rhapsody.
- Yet Time, O organ tones, shall urge
- Thy staves in many a wailing plaint,
- And men shall hear, through sorrow faint,
- The moan of many a dirge.
- But never shall thine octaves fall
- In grander spheres of use than when
- Thou leadest on the lips of men
- To praise the Lord of All.
- Or when thine anthems clear resound,
- Through scale and space, by clef and bar,
- And bear the uplifted soul afar,
- In soaring waves of sound.
- Keep thou thy gifts, as sacred types,
- O organ tones, of timbre clear,
- And long may men, rejoicing, hear,
- The music of thy pipes.
June 1, 1909.
"Like as a City Set on an Hill"
Poem read at the Dedication of the Masonic Orphans' Home at
Batesville, Arkansas, September 3Oth, 1909.]
Like as a City set on an hill,
With a destiny wide in the world to fulfill:
Like as a light that shineth down,
From the topmost height of a mountain crown:
Like as a radiance seen afar
In the distant gleam of a shimmering star:
So is this House in its vesture here:
So shows its promise, fair and clear:
So shines its lofty purpose, when
It stands a beacon seen of men.
Full long hath the wailing of Want been known;
And Misery hath breathed in a broken moan;
Full long hath Need, with tears, besought
Surcease from the woes of Suffering brought:
Till last in the hearts of men, refined
By the Spirit of Love for the human kind,
Hath come the high desire to bless
The Strength of help unto helplessness.
Like the voice that spake out of Gallilee:
Suffer ye these to come unto me.
Ah me, if the great ones passed away
Can look from their realms of endless day,
And see us standing where they stood,
With an upward reach to achieve the Good:
Ah then, believe me, well may rise
A kindling light in their spirit eyes;
A thrill of keenest joy; as when
Some great deed lights the souls of men.
And theirs the Master's saying be:
As ye gave unto these, so ye gave unto me.
Ah, Spirit of Mercy, thou daughter of Love,
Issuing from the All-Father above,
Come and replenish our feeble days
With a sweetness in words, and a kindness in ways.
O spirit of Charity, here do thou rest,
And teach that the Gift and the giving are blest:
That not a kind act shall unfruitful remain;
Not a cup of cold water be given in vain:
That not even the least of these of today,
Shall fade from the Father's care away.
And long may these walls we dedicate
Stand in their strength as the years abate;
And may yon roof forever clasp
Enduring power within its grasp.
Long may they shelter in the fold
Whatever helpless Need may hold:
And as the sum of our hopes and fears
Stands thus complete in the flow of years,
Be this its lesson our whole live through;
IN WHAT MEASURE YE METE, IT BE METED TO YOU.
Poem read at Banquet, Savannah, Georgia, November 12, 1909, at
Triennial of General Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons and General
Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of the United States.]
Low coast where the white tide, flowing free,
Rolls in from the deeps of the Eastern Sea;
And where yon thin gray clouds decline
Along by the far horizon line:
Here by thy sandy marge I stray
As I watch the close of an Autumn day,
And I pause awhile as the breezes sigh,
Ere I say to thy scenes: Adios. Good bye.
It is days we have seen the light winds toss
In the long festoons of the Spanish moss;
It is pleasant days we have wondering seen
How the liveoak lifts its leaves of green.
It is days we have seen how the palm and the pine,
And the grand magnolias, gleam and shine:
And deeper the gleam as the day draws nigh,
When their leaves shall whisper : Goodbye. Goodbye.
Right hearty hath been thy royal cheer,
O olden City that gathereth here;
Right keen hath been our interest wound
About thine old historic ground.
And Park and plaisance, path and street,
That echoed in turn to the passing feet,
Shall each in a kind remembrance lie,
When our lips have breathed: Adios. Goodbye.
Right well, indeed, O Comrades, thus
Hath been thy welcoming unto us.
And surely could no kindlier be
Than thy boundless hospitality.
And the joy of parted friends restored,
With the newer friends at our festal board,
Hath the only clouds that above us lie,
That all to soon comes our sad, Goodbye.
Ah, Comrades, there rings in the sum of things
This keen regret that the moment brings;
That back of all mingling the lesson lies,
That Life is a making and breaking of ties,
So out of the joy of the passing day,
Let each one unto his neighbor say,
With a grasp of the hand, and a mist in the eye:
Adieu. Adios. Goodbye. Goodbye.
To The Craft at Ravenswood
At Chicago, on a visit to them, August 8th, 1910.
- Bound by the bond of a great degree
- Am I, O Brethren, unto ye.
- By the strength of a vow whose ties extend
- Like the links of a chain that hath no end.
- Bound by the threefold cords that cling
- With the native force of a living thing:
- Where the wide-extended Nations bring
- Our holy Brotherhood.
- So here tonight I seem to stand
- Not as strange in a stranger land;
- But the rather as one who comes to clasp
- A Brother's hand in a Brother's grasp:
- To pledge anew the friendship held
- By the three wise Kings in the days of eld:
- As a traveller might step on his native shore:
- To be like a son at his Mother's door:
- Simply to stand in the ranks;—not more:
- O Craft of Ravenswood.
- For into my vision there comes a day;
- In the gathering Past not far away,
- Filled to the full with a sense of pride
- Awakened to live and long abide.
- Forever there comes before mine eyes
- A scene whose memory never dies;
- When favoring Fortune cast her prize,
- And my soul was alight and cheered:
- When out of your aid, O Brethren here,
- There came the boon that my life holds dear:
- That sheds on all the hours that be
- A light that ever shines for me.
- And down through the sweep of the years that fly,
- Shall that light still live while the days go by.
- As the round sun reddens the Western sky,
- When its beams have disappeared.
John Corson Smith, Obit, December 31st, 1910.
Strong of heart, and high of mind:
Filled with the love of the human kind:
Great in the grace of the kindly thought
From the depths of a generous nature brought:
Our hearts, O Frater beloved well,
Beat low as we breathe a sad farewell.
Long, through the rush of the living days,
Hath the love of thy Fraters shone always.
As a pillar that's grounded firm and sure,
But the firmer stands as the years endure;
So shall thy fame its tenure hold;
Nor its freshness lapse as the years unfold.
And into thy walls, O Temple wide,
Where crowded the throngs from side to side:
And where by the sleeping clay there grouped
Full many a head in sorrow drooped:
No higher, grander, life drew near,
Than the life that closed with the closing year.
Farewell, O Friend! Long may the cheer
Thy presence gave yet linger here!
And ever unto us who stay
By that shore from which thou hast sailed away.
The memory of thy merit dwell
Like a light on distant seas! Farewell!
This popular poem by Hempstead is perhaps his only legacy as a
poet today, when it is know by the shorter title of "The Lambskin Apron".
On Presenting A Lambskin Apron
Light and white are its leathern folds;
And a priceless lesson its texture holds.
Symbol it is, as the years increase,
Of the paths that lead through the fields of Peace.
Type it is of the higher sphere,
Where the deeds of the body, ended here,
Shall one by one the by-way be
To pass the gates of Eternity.
Emblem it is of a life intense,
Held aloof from the world of sense:
Of the upright walk, and the lofty mind,
Far from the dross of Earth inclined.
Sign it is that he who wears
Its sweep unsullied, about him bears
That which should be to mind and heart,
A set reminder of his art.
So may it ever bring to thee
The high resolves of Purity.
Its spotless field of shining white
Serve to guide thy steps aright:
Thy daily life, in scope and plan,
Be that of the strong and upright man.
And signal shall the honor be
Unto those who wear it worthily.
Receive it thus to symbolize
Its drift, in the life that before thee lies.
Badge as it is of a great degree,
Be it chart and compass unto thee.
March 19th, 1912.
This may not seem overly much like a Masonic poem, but the first
and the two final verses (1,6,7) were reprinted in The Builder Magazine
(Vol.3,No.6). Keep in mind the world situation
— what we now call World War I had begun in June, 1914, 2 or 3 months prior
to the writing of this poem in September, 1914. It had been going on for three
years in Europe, and America had entered it in April, 1917, when The Builder
printed the poem in June, 1917.
Red is the sky; and crimson red
Are the fields, with their heaps of countless dead;
Red is the fringe of copse and wood;
Where the War-Dogs slake their thirst for blood;
And redder yet has the sunset grown,
From ruined Cities, overthrown;
As the old World Nations grappling, close
In a strife to the death with hated foes.
Oh, curséd be the Kings who prize
A war as their highest exercise!
And curséd be the minds that plan
To slay or maim their fellowmnn!
Oh, curséd be the crafts that fly
With murder, dropped from a cloudless sky!
Curséd be War and Treachery!
And curséd be Diplomacy!
Has the World gone back, in her hateful rage,
As unto some far, barbaric, age:
When the torch and slaughter; crime and strife,
Were the pastimes of a brutal life?
Shame on the hands that backward sent
The course of the World's development:
And, mocking at Humanity,
Have made of the Christian life a lie!
Of old the Christly message ran:
"Peace on Earth; good-will to Man."
And through the years that His realm hath stood,
He preached the creed of Doing Good.
Alas, that in this latest day,
Its highest good is shorn away,
And all the gentle grace it had,
By frenzied Rulers, battle-mad.
Courage yet, O drooping heart:
Rise up and fill a stronger part.
God's finger-prints are clearly seen,
Laid here and there in wrath between.
He will not suffer Wrong to be
Forever in ascendency:
But doth to each transgressor say:
"Vengeance is mine; I will repay."
But over the war-cloud, rolling low,
And above the tide of tears and woe;
And through the blight of harrowing fear,
His higher purpose shineth clear.
For like the light of the opening day,
His hand shall sweep the mists away;
And over that hour supreme shall span,
Blest Peace, and the Brotherhood of Man.
God grant it so. And grant we may
Sooner usher in that gracious day;
When men shall turn to War no more;
And peace abide from shore to shore;
When States be ruled by kindly thought,
And sword and spear be held for naught;
And evermore among us dwell,
The reign of Prince Immanuel.
The Light of The Crypt
Out of a realm of a faded trace;
In the misty spheres of Time and Space;
Out of a day when the World was young;
Like a flaming ray from a taper flung
There comes a Light — nor faint nor dim:
'Neath the outstretched wings of the Cherubim;
A Light that lay in the dark embrace
Of the Crypt beneath the Temple's place;
Where springing arches guarded well
The proxy-Ark of Israel;
The while the Giblim sentry stand,
With the Sword and Trowel in either hand.
Long wrought the Sons of Gebal there,
With the ringing clink of chisel and square;
To form its founding, broad and deep,
While prying eyes were closed in sleep:
Wrought long to build the proper base
To set the Cubic Stone in place;
And by it — deeper yet interred —
To lay the Book of the Sacred Word:
There to repose while the Ages grew;
Till the waxing Centuries, moving through
The zones that a higher life enfold,
Laid bare to the World its stores of gold.
So, out of the tomb, thus buried away
Has come the Rising Light of Day.
That fills the World with its sheen and shine;
Shekinah-like; a thing Divine.
And who shall tell of the debt we owe
To those Giblemites of Long Ago;
Who kept, through labors, long and sure
Those Firstlings of the Word secure;
To be, as Time her page unfurled,
The Faith and Solace of the World.
Shine on, O Light of the Crypt, until
Thy spheres of use be wider still.
Shine on, till all the World be drawn
Within thee — ever moving on:
And this thy blest assurance be.
YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH: AND SHALL, SO, BE FREE!
The Diamond Jubilee
Of Memphis Lodge No. 118, F. & A. Masons; October 6th, 1921.
He who comes to the three-score-ten
That the Psalmist sets for the lives of men,
Sees the shadows gather and grow,
And the Sun in the West go sloping low;
Sees the light be thin for him,
And the purpling sky but faint and dim;
And his vapid life, or late or soon,
Die down like the light of the waning moon.
Not so when Time, with its strenuous hand,
Has woven the woof of a Brotherly Band:
Not so when the trend of the things that be
Is cast in the mold of Fraternity:
Where the ties that hold its banner high,
Grow stronger yet as the days go by
And the welded metal wears beside
Its Crown of Age with a sense of Pride.
So, who shall measure the good seed sown
In the years of life that this Lodge hath known?
Who shall tell of the kindly deed;
Of the hand of help in the pressing need?
Of the word of cheer; of the soothing voice;
Of making the burdened heart rejoice;
Of the ministering acts that Kindness show,
When the sands of Life are running low?
And farther yet; who frame the roll
Of her Sons, as a part of the Nation's soul?
The Bench; the Bar; the Pulpit; through
High Statecraft's every avenue:
The House; the Senate; they that be
Of Physic, or of Surgery;
The Bank; the Counting-House; the Mart;
The Railway, and the realms of Art:
Or they that till the fields, and give
The bread by which the World may live;
On, Hero-like, have borne beside
Their Country's Banner, flying wide:
Defending, yea with limb or life,
In the thunder-shocks of mighty strife: —
All this, and more, the Mind may see
In this glad Diamond Jubilee!
And as the years have onward sped,
How hath the great World waxed and spread!
How was it when the Corner-stone
Was laid for this Lodge in the far-off zone;
Whose vital dole of hopes and fears,
Has run through these five and seventy years?
Could the voice of the human speak with ease
Through the cavernous depths of the restless Seas?
Could Thought be flashed from everywhere
From land to land through the vacant air?
Could the hills be swiftly spanned, and the Vale,
With the dashing car or the glittering rail?
Could the daring rise on droning wing,
'Till the eagle below seems a tiny thing?
Could the whirling disc break forth with song
Like that to the nightingales belong? —
Nay, nay; We live in a Wonder-way
Of Miracles, — more than the Savior's day!
Yea, these and else have grown apace
Since this Lodge began its forward race!
And what of the Future? Who shall say,
To scan the prospect stretched away,
What Wonder-Works, perchance may be
More marvelous even than these we see?
Be it ours to think, as someone stands
On the dizzy heights of those unknown lands,
In ages hence, when we are gone,
And our places here are hardly known,
That others, looking back, shall see
The greater Triumphs, yet to be;
And in their glories, high and fair,
May find your workings still be there!
So be it. Let the Harvest grown
In those far Seasons, lapsed and flown,
Be garnered fruit for those who reap,
As stores, that shall their freshness keep;
And even far more glorious be
Some other, later. Jubilee!
Ex Oriente Lux
Poem read at the laying of the Cornerstone of the
Albert Pike Memorial Temple, Little Rock, May 31, 1922.
After the grief of that Summer night
There comes for us a cheering light.
After the ashes of dust and dismay
There shines the brighter light of Day.
As here beneath yon bended sky,
We build this Home of Fraternity.
Out of the days when Disaster came,
With its seething heat and its lurid flame,
And turned—as it were by a single stroke,
The wealth of the Past into ashes and smoke,
There rises again a nobler fane,
And the strength of Resolve is born again.
And who, as we gather here today,
Shall peer through the future space and say
What glorious deeds of high renown,
This stately house shall gaze upon?
Or who shall tell, from a furtive glance.
What wonder-work of grand Advance,
In the horoscope of this house appears,
As forth it goes through the coming years?
Rise high, O roof and window wide,
That stretchest far on every side
To grasp within thine ample dome,
The groups that here shall find a home;
Rise high, O pillars, richly wrought,
Each one the type of noble Thought,
That bulk with sturdy strength to stand
The touch of Time's effacing hand.
And thou, O stone, be thou the while
The corner of this noble pile,
Whose mission be, till Time shall cease,
To teach the gentler arts of Peace;
And door and column; dome and wing,
Shall each in turn a tribute bring
To that high LIGHT OF TRUTH, increased
By the Light that shineth from the East.
Shine ever on, O gleaming Light!
Thy course be as a meteor bright.
While stands the rounded World, O then
Thy Light be the guiding light of men!
A number of inaccuracies having appeared in print concerning these
Poems, I deem it well to give at this place a few details concerning
I was born in Little Rock, November 24, 1847, at what is now No.
610 East Markham street, where my parents resided until 1853. One
half of the house stood until after 1908. flanked by grand magnolia trees,
which were planted by my Father. Subsequent to that date house and
trees were removed, giving place to improvements.
Both my parents were literary. My Mother had artistic accomplishments
in music, painting and the writing of verse; while my Father
possessed oratorical gifts, and a splendid faculty for composition. As a
draftsman, a letter-writer of clearness and force, and for clear, comprehensive
and forceful statement, he was excellent. He held a high
position at the Bar, and won distinction on the Bench. I received
schooling under private tutors; then at St. John's College, Little Rock,
and lastly at the University of Virginia, at Charlottesvitle, Virginia. I
remember to have occasionally written verses in my boyhood, but not
more than mere doggerel, and nothing indeed worthy of the name, until
at the University of Virginia in 1867 seeing the Soldiers' graves in
the University Cemetery strewn with flowers, I was moved to write a
Poem which was published in the University Magazine and elicited favorable
comment. It appears in this Volume under the title of "Memorial
Day," [265/305] with verses 5, 6 and 7 added. The publication of the Poem led
to requests for others: one, furnished for some May Queen occasion,
possessing merit, but which has not been preserved. This was followed
by fugitive pieces, from time to time, of which one, appearing in this
Volume under the Title of "Kairon Gnothi" [208/240] was published in leaflet
form about 1872, and attracted attention. A volume of Tennyson's
Poems, given to me by my wife, at Christmas, 1875, furnishel a continuing
inspiration. As I read, and re-read those noble Poems, with
which I had not previously become thoroughly acquainted, a new spirit
was awakened within me, and I wrote frequently and readily thereafter.
The Poems called "The Hundred Years" and "The Christmas Gift"
were early products of this condition; and from that time on, I have
written as the spirit has moved me. In 1878 I published through the
press of Lippincott & Co., of Philadelphia, a first Volume of my Poems,
which was fairly good, and successful, as first Volumes go, but which
does not reflect my best work. In 1898, twenty years later, there was
published by Allsopp & Paul, through the Gazette Press of Little Rock,
a Collected Edition of the Poems, which was followed speedily by other
Editions. After a somewhat long silence, under the pressure of many
engagements, and the overwhelming demands of business and official
affairs, a visit to California in 1904 furnished inspiration for what I
consider some of my best Poems.
It was in 1907-08, however, that my greatest elevation in Poetical
matters occurred. In the Autumn a Poem entitled "Sextennial" written
upon the occasion of my attaining my sixtieth birthday was read before
the Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Arkansas, of which I had long been
Secretary. It was published in Masonic Magazines and in particular
by Mr. Roswell T. Spencer of Chicago, editing the Masonic Voice-
Review, who, on account of the Poem, placed my name in nomination
for the post of Laureate of Freemasonry; a post which had been vacant
for some ten years, since the death of Rob Morris of Kentucky, who
was himself the successor of Robert Burns, the first to fill the office.
The subject was placed before the Masonic Fraternity of the United
States and Canada by means of a referendum, the result of which was
that I was chosen to that high position, with practical unanimity. I
was crowned as Laureate at Chicago October sth, 1908, under the
auspices of Ravenswood Lodge No. 777 of that City. Vesting me with
that distinguished honor proved to be a stimulus and an incentive for
many of my best efforts, coming after that time: those evoked by the
great World War having received extensive notice and comment.
Little Rock, Arkansas. [c.1922]
[Much of this information was compiled from the
Fay Hempstead Collection of the Central Arkansas Library System.]
Fay Hempstead was born November 24, 1847, in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was the son of
Samuel Hutchinson Hempstead, an attorney and Postmaster of Little Rock, and Elizabeth Beall Hempstead.
In his early youth, Hempstead was educated by private tutors.
He attended St. John’s College, in Little Rock, from 1859-1861.
From 1866-1868 he attended the University of Virginia, obtaining a law degree.
After graduating from the University of Virginia, Hempstead returned to Arkansas to practice law
with the Rose Law Firm.
(As a bit of trivia, this is the same firm which would, over a century later in 1976,
hire a young lawyer named Hillary Rodham Clinton.)
He married Gertrude Blair O’Neale of Charlottesville, Virginia, on September 13, 1871. They had seven children.
In 1874 he became Registrar in Bankruptcy for Arkansas and held this position until 1881,
when he was elected Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas Freemasons,
a position he held until his death in 1934.
Hempstead was a member of Christ Episcopal Church,
where he served as Sunday School Superintendent, choir director, and lay reader.
He was also a member of the Arkansas Sons of the American Revolution,
in which he served many terms as secretary and registrar.
On Oct. 21st, 1908 in Chicago he was named Poet Laureate of Freemasonry,
and was made a 33º by the Scottish Rite Bodies of the Valley of Little Rock.
At this remove in time, I don't know how well known Hempstead's poetry was in his own day,
but his "Laureate" title seems to have little lasting recognition outside of Arkansas.
You would have to look long and hard to find any of his poetry today except a single poem,
"The Lambskin Apron," and what we have revived at the M.P.S.
Fay Hempstead died on April 24, 1934 and is buried in Mount Holly
Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Hempstead published four volumes of poetry:
Random Arrows (Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott and Company, 1878)
Poems (Little Rock, Allsopp and Paul, 1898, and additional editions)
Laureate Poems (1912)
Poems, Complete Edition (1922, which included all poems from the previous volumes).
His historical works include
A History of the State of Arkansas: For the Use of Schools (1889)
A Pictorial History of Arkansas: From Earliest Times to the Year 1890 (1890)
A Historical Review of Arkansas: Its Commerce, Industry, and Modern Affairs (1911)