Table of Contents

R.J. McLauchlin
  1. The Square
  2. The Level
  3. The Trowel
  4. The Plumb
  5. The Gavel
  6. The Gauge
  7. The Cornerstone
  8. The Laying Of The Cornerstone
  9. Bio of R.J. McLauchlin

The Square

The Elders of our ancient art
Built Temples, high and fair,
And never stone was laid in place
And never column rose in grace,
Untested by the Square.

Our Elders left a heritage,
Upreared in wood and stone,
That we, who follow, might behold
The craft of these, the men of old,
Thus, through their works, made known.

Oh, let us do our work as well,
Though never dome we raise,
With brain untutored, hand unskilled,
A square-set Temple we may build,
Of simple nights and days.

The Square of Virtue for our acts
Wherewith to set them true,
Can make a building, standing quite
As worthy in our children's sight,
And in the Master's, too.

Thus may we, too, great builders be
As any ancient race;
Our Temple is the square-set mind,
Wherein the Master's Self may find
A fitting dwelling-place.

The Level

Oh, he who rides th' untrammeled winds of fame,
And he whose steps are painful made and slow,
Shall reach at length one goal; yea, each the same;
For on Time's Level do their courses go.

And man, composed of fragile mortal stuff,
His fame must doff, his glory leave behind,
Nor pride nor power has potency enough
To raise one mortal man above his kind.

The ages' wisdom gives this message birth,
The sweep of generations can display
The bones of Cesar, mightiest of earth,
Beside his vassals, crumbling in the clay.

And thus the Craftsmen anciently were taught
That glory, on Time's Level, finds defeat,
And there have they their full communion sought,
And there they evermore shall work and meet.

The mighty and the lowly there shall bend
Unto the nearest tasks their lives provide;
The humble shall arise, the high descend,
As brothers, on the Level, side by side.

The Trowel

Now each man builds a Temple by his single strength alone,
And whatsoe'er its worthiness, that Temple is his own,
Of chaste and gleaming marble or of ugly mud and clay,
Each Temple must its builder's self, his secret soul, display.

The world beholds and reasons, "Lo, this builder's house is fair;
All honor to the Craftsman who has set such beauty there;
For such a noble monument, so straight and white and grand,
Reveals a wise and cleanly brain, a strong and cleanly hand."

But ofentimes it happens that, ere many years have sped,
This Temple's symmetry departs, its beauty wholly fled,
And what was once magnificance is soil and wrack and rust,
And perfect columns find their rest in overwhelming dust.

Ah, world, look closely when you would a Temple well discern,
And peradventure lessons may you profitably learn,
Behold its stones but ere you say "The hand that wrought was clean."
Take heed of other buildings and mark what lies between.

There is no house the Master sees- and calls the builder good-
Whose stones are not anointed by the hand of brotherhood,
Which have not felt the Trowel's touch which there the mortar laid,
The mortar that the builder's self, his secret soul, displayed.

Howe'er the Temple's grace, whate'er the builder's pain,
Because it lacked the Trowel's touch, the same was reared in vain,
And in despite of outward strength, of beauty and renown,
Because it lacked the Trowel's touch, the same shall crumble down.

For each man builds a Temple by his single might alone,
And whatsoe'er its worthiness, that Temple is his own;
The world may judge the beauty which the world's blind eyes have seen,
But only may the Master say "The builder's hand was clean."

The Plumb

Here walks one Crafsman mightily adown his earthly ways,
Another treads in humbler wise his round of nights and days,
And each completes his journey, and lo, each one has trod
Upright among his fellows and erect before his God.

And who shall say that one is great, the other nothing worth,
When each has stood uprightly in the councils of the earth?
And who shall say the Master will withhold his fullest grace
From one, however lowly, who erect has held his place?

Ah, patiently and slowly doth the age-long balance swing
To weigh the humble toiler and the ermine-vestured king,
And peradventure, finally, the toiler shall attain,
Beyond his mighty brother, to a rarer, loftier plane.

Behold the Plumb, my brothers, and regard its lesson well,
The lore of life and life's rewards its perfect line can tell,
To stand as straight, to work as true, to live as perfectly,
Is man's first pain, his fullest gain, his fairest destiny.

So he who seeks admonishment, as straight the Plumbine falls,
May scale no heights, speak paltry words, storm no embattled walls,
Yet to the Master's precincts, when his lifetime's toils are through,
Forever shall his footsteps lead, in steadfast course and true.

The Gavel

Within the quarry, I, the youngest Craftsman, stood,
And there were, all about me, mighty blocks
Rough-hewn from out the granite breast of Earth:

So young was I, so foolish and so fond
That, as I stood, I mused upon myself,
Beholding in my person perfect things,
And as I meditated there, I spoke:

Said I, "Observe in me the ages' heir,
Complete Fullfillment's type and Wisdom's son;
Let Future view my parts and there remark
Its sound salvation, its embodied hope,
For, as I stand, I am the very plinth,
Square-set, whereon its beauty may be built."

A cloud slid down, the moon's fair face was hid,
And, with the darkness, came a curious thing;
A voice, profound, reproving, kind withal,
Proceeded from the center of the stone
And, fearful, I attended it as it spoke;
The living boulder, grown articulate.

"Fond Youth," it told me, "we, thy comrades, speak
Such words as thine when first our shapes assume
Some likeness to the polished ashlars which
Compose the Temple's fair and perfect strength:
But ere our mass be of any use
Lo, we are changed till none that sees us now
Might know us then; and only that remains
Which ages' processes have given us;
Stones are we still, as ye are always men,
But stones prepared by toil and pain and sweat;
And thou, my foolish one, are like to us,
A mighty hulk of vast potential strength,
Potential wisdom, beauty, too, no doubt,
But none of these as yet, nor will be, till
Thou art prepared, like us, by toil and sweat;
Consider thou the Gavel, let it break
Thee to some fitting semblance of a man,
Else be thou silent, patient to remain
Within the quarry, with thy brother stones."

The cloud slid up, soft light caressed the scene
And all about were simple, mighty blocks
Rough-hewn from out the granite breast of Earth,
Great, futile, massy, purposeless and dumb,
And I was one of them.

The Gauge

The gauge divides the lives of men
Until their lifetimes' tales are o'er;
Receive the Gauge, Apprentice, then,
Consider well its hallowed lore!

A time for toil, a time for sleep,
A time to serve such men as need;
The Craftsman thus his faith shall keep,
As on the restless seasons speed.

For Work, whereby the peoples live,
Must needs command its portion fair;
And labor shall the Craftsman give
One-third his days, one-third his care.

And, weary when his tasks are done,
The Craftsman lays him down to rest,
That he may greet the morrow's sun
With fresher, slumber-strengthened zest.

And work and rest himself shall raise
Unto a higher, richer state,
To turn anew toward God, His praise,
And succor the unfortunate.

A life well-lived is fashioned here,
A life with joy and profit fraught;
Its round, through each successive year,
Is by this simple emblem taught.

The Cornerstone

The symbol of a stalwart faith thou art,
Firm set and sure, for ages there to stand,
At once the token of a cunning hand,
And of the consecrated, faithful heart;

To those who follow us shalt thou impart
Some knowledge of the tasks this day fulfilled,
And of the men that wrought it, wise and skilled,
Their mem'ry shall thy presence ever start;

O stone, thou art an altar, on thee rears
A Temple, standing wondrous in the sun;
A Lesson unto all the coming years
Of faithfulness to work, today begun;
And on thee, raised in glory, there appears
All Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, joined in one.

The Laying Of The Cornerstone

We have laid the stone all truly with a Master Craftsman's care,
We have tested it and tried it by the level, plumb and square,
We have made a firm foundation for our children's children's toil
And empty poured the vessels of their corn and wine and oil.

What further is remaining save stone on stone to rear
That soon the finished building in its glory shall appear?
What more to do than giving to this pile its latest touch?
And a Voice that stirs the stillness makes this answer, "There is much,"

"There is work to do, my brothers, wrought of neither stone nor steel
And never dome nor tower can its majesty reveal,
For this, the nobler labor, ere his toil can make it whole,
Must be performed in darkness in the Master Craftsman's soul.

"There are works of loving-kindness and of charity and good
And a structure to be builded with the stones of brotherhood,
For this mighty Temple's fabric is an empty, mocking shell
Unless within it there be built a shrine of souls as well."

Take heed, then, Master Craftsman, when this Temple shall arise
With its brave and gleaming towers pointing grandly to the skies,
Let yourselves compose the structure, let yourselves the Temple be,
That shall stand in great proportions unto all Eternity.

Russell J. McLauchlin (1894-c.1960)

(I've accumulated a bunch of bits and pieces about Russell McLauchlin of Detroit, but been unable to confirm that he's the same person as the Masonic poet on this page! So read the following with caution.

Russell McLauchlin was born in Detroit in 1894. He grew up in Detroit, and in 1946 published a book of his columns reminiscing about growing up on Alfred Street. As the "Talk of the Town" columnist for the Detroit News, he was music and drama critic for more than 30 years, until his retirement in 1955.

Russell was a dedicated Sherlock Holmes fan, and founder of The Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit, a scion of the Baker Street Irregulars; he wrote articles and at least one pastich short story of Sherlock Holmes, "Tea Time At Baker Street."

[The following is adapted from] "I have the vague idea that I might have mentioned my good friend to you ó a great drama critic, Russell McLauchlin. Russ was the dean of Detroit drama critics, having been one for over 40 years for The Detroit News. In the fullness of time, Russ and I became fast friends. We had the same sense of humor, liked the same foods, etc. and palled around a very great deal; indeed we even wrote a play together which was produced at The Lambs Club in New York. After Russ died, his widow, Grace, gave me all of Russís papers because they had no children and because I was as close to being a son as Russ would ever have. Now has come the time for me to dispose of those papers because there just is no one around that has the same interests and background Russ and I shared."
John McCabe, Mackinac Island, MI, March 16, 2002 (McCabe died in 2004)

McLauchlin, Russell. Alfred Street. Detroit: Conjure House, 1946. 102pp.