Proceedings of the Masonic Poets Society #5

December 2007

Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. New Book on the Site
  3. Warning, Bawdy Poem
    Revived Poems:
  4. Mystery Of Words by John Edmund Barss (1871-1944)
  5. Entered Apprentice's Song by Matthew Birkhead (d.1722)
  6. What Came We Here To Do? by J.M. Jenkins (c.1920)
  7. That Fellow's On The Square by Joseph Fort Newton (1880-1950)
    New Poems:
  8. Rational Mystics Haiku by Ted Berry
  9. Square And Compasses by William "Fergy" Ferguson
  10. Labor To Eternal Rest by Brad Koehler
  11. Masters by David Thomas Lang
  12. A Mason's Working Tools by Jay Cole Simser


It hasn't been quite a year since the last heptaennial issue, so I hope I'm not cluttering up your in boxes with too much mail. We really do need to get a newsletter editor who is more conscientious than the current one. A short issue every seven weeks, seven times a year, would undoubtedly be preferred to a long one like this.

I hope you've enjoyed the little game at the top of this page, like the one in the last issue. See how quickly you can guess what's hiding behind those logos as you move your mouse slowly over them.

Development of the MPoets website has been going on apace. Many new poems have been added in the past year, and many more are still in the pipeline — both old ones I have on my hard drive and haven't formatted yet; as well, I'm sure, as new ones you are writing.

During the past year, we've had two membership requests from poets who were non-Masons, and obviously thought we were a general poetry site where they could place their poems. There are legions of such sites out in cyberspace, but this is not intended as one of them. I wrote to each explaining that we were a site for Masonic poetry only, which meant either poetry about some aspect of Freemasonry, or patriotic or inspirational poetry by Masons. I told them that I would gladly approve their applications, as long as they realized we were unlikely to ever publish any of their poems. Neither one elected to follow up and join, although one now has me on her spam list.

Of course, we're always open to new Masonic poems, but if you don't feel inspired to write one, there are other things you can write to help. An article for the Proceedings on a poetic topic would be appropriate. Or compile a collection of appropriate poetry by a Masonic author we don't already have. For example, Alfred Tennyson and Edwin Markham are both very famous poets who were also Masons, but we have no poems in our collection from either one of these giants.

Also, I've been writing biographies of poets to append to their poetry files, but often the information I can find on the Internet is sketchy. If you could submit a few bios, particularly for ones currently without one, or to replace one of the skeletal bios I've not been able to flesh out, it would be appreciated. Also your own bios, if you have poems on the site. I envision this site still being around a century from now, long after all of us are dust. And just as no information can often be found about some of these poets from a century ago, I wouldn't want future archivists to wonder about who these people were who wrote today's poems. A "website" of a century in the future will probably be as different from the current one as it is from a collection of papyrus scrolls. But the text will still be there, and we need to feed it in today, while we're still alive to tell our own stories.


New Book on the Site

We've added the .pdf file of another book to the site. We've already had compete collections, including non-Masonic poems, from Rob Morris, David Barker, and Robert Pinkerton. Now, we also have the Complete Poems of Fay Hempstead (1847-1934). Although largely unknown today, Brother Hempstead was hailed as the new "Poet Laureate of Freemasonry" in 1908. The .pdf file contains all his poems on all subjects, while a selection of his poems on Masonic topics are in a normal HTML file on the MPoets website.

Warning, Bawdy Poem

Just want to make sure that none of you become offended by a bawdy song that has been added to the website. We happened to come across this song by Robbie Burns, and although it is attributed to him, it doesn't appear on the official Robert Burns website, which claims to have every poem he ever wrote on it. Perhaps this one was purposely left out due to its scatological nature; but it is definitely a Masonic poem, so we now have it in our archives. To avoid being offended by it, please do not go to Bawdy Masonic Song. Thank you. Your compliance is appreciated.

The rest of this issue is a sampler of new poems on the site. Only one poem from each poet is presented, though most have more than one new poems on the individual pages dedicated to each, and many other poets than these few also have new poems on the site.

Revived Poems, new to the MPoets site

The Mystery Of Words Well Said

by John Edmund Barss (1871-1944)

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

Entered Apprentice's Song

by Matthew Birkhead (d.1722)

Come let us prepare,
We brothers that are
Met together on merry occasion;
Let's drink, laugh and sing,
Our wine has a spring
'Tis a health to an accepted Mason.

The world is in pain
Our secret to gain,
But still let them wonder and gaze on;
Till they're shown the light
They'll ne'er know the right
Word or sign of an accepted Mason.

'Tis this, and 'tis that,
They cannot tell what
Why so many great men of the nation,
Should aprons put on,
To make themselves one,
With a free or an accepted Mason.

Great Kings, Dukes and Lords,
Have laid by their swords
This our mystery to put a good grace on
And ne'er been ashamed
To hear themselves named
With a free or an accepted Mason.

Antiquity's pride
We have on our side
It makes each man just, in his station
There's naught but what's good
To be understood,
By a free or an accepted Mason.

Then join hand in hand,
T'each other firm stand
Let's be merry, and put a bright face on;
What mortal can boast
So noble a toast
As a free or an accepted Mason?

What Came We Here To Do?

by J.M. Jenkins (c.1920)

Foot to foot, no matter where,
Though far beyond my destined road
If Brother needs a Brother's care,
On foot I'll go and share his load.

Knee to knee, no selfish prayer
Shall ever from my lips ascend
For all who act upon the square,
At least, henceforth, my knee shall bend.

Breast to breast, and this I swear,
A Brother's secrets here shall sleep
If told to me upon the square,
Save those I am not bound to keep.

Hand to back, oh type of love!
Fit emblem to adorn the skies,
Be this our task below, above
To help poor falling mortals rise.

Cheek to cheek, or mouth to ear,
"We all like sheep have gone astray,"
May we good counsel give and bear
'Til each shall find the better way.

"That Fellow's On The Square"

by Joseph Fort Newton (1880-1950)

It matters not whate'er your lot
Or what your task may be,
One duty there remains for you
One duty stands for me.
Be you a doctor skilled and wise,
Or do your work for wage,
A laborer upon the street,
An artist on the stage;
Our glory still awaits for you,
One honor that is fair,
To have men say as you pass by:
"That fellow's on the Square."

Ah, here's a phrase that stands for much
'Tis good old English too,
It means that men have confidence
In everything you do,
It means that what you have, you've earned,
And that you've done your best,
And when you go to sleep at night,
Untroubled you may rest.
It means that conscience is your guide,
And honor is your care;
There is no greater praise than this:
"That fellow's on the Square."

And when I die I would not wish
A lengthy epitaph;
I do not wish a headstone large,
Carved with some fulsome chaff,
Pick out no single deed of mine,
If such a deed there be,
To 'grave upon my monument,
For those who come to see,
Just this one phrase of all I choose,
To show my life was fair:
"Here sleepeth now a fellow who
Was always on the Square."

New Poems

Rational Mystics

Haiku by Ted Berry

Freemasonry is
The high art of creating
Rational mystics.

Square and Compasses

by William "Fergy" Ferguson

As I look down upon the Bible,
At the square and the compasses there,
They told a story of duty
And all the degrees they shared.
Time had taken its toll on them,
Their luster was all but spent.
Many a hand had moved them,
For the message that they sent.

I shook my head in silence,
Some 80 years they gave.
Time for them to be retired,
And pass on to their grave.
To my surprise when I got them home
They seemed to say, "We're waiting."
"Okay," said I, "if that's what you want."
So without any hesitating:

Some elbow grease I did apply,
Soon they started shining.
Delicate engravings there,
And on them both entwining.
That lovely square and compasses
Again on our Bible lays;
And 80 more years of brotherhood
Shall shine though their silver rays.

Labor To Eternal Rest

by Brad Koehler

As his family and friends gather,
forming a mournful congregation.
Rest ye now, O' Master Mason,
you've fulfilled your obligation.
He was known to be a good man,
but a better man he'd become.
Clinging to the symbolic tools,
the square, level, and plumb.
The Masonic Rites are given,
apron clad Freemasons on display.
He looks back, smiles, and nods,
while ascending the stairway.
All the brethren left behind,
will remember his good deeds.
As he travels Heaven bound,
they all wish him Godspeed.
His body here, but spirit gone,
the earthly bonds now broken.
Where St. Peter is the Tyler,
and passwords never spoken.
Designs upon the trestle board,
this craftsman is set to hasten.
The Supreme Architect orders,
"Rest ye now, my Master Mason."


by David Thomas Lang

Square and compasses with letter G,
Symbols of brotherhood and charity.
From mountain to valley and sea to sea,
A universal mark of chivalry.

A square to deal with all in truth,
An object lesson for wayward youth.
Ninety degrees, set and true —
Not eighty-nine, not ninety-two

A compass to circumscribe desire,
That words of passion not turn to fire.
A circle in which we contain our actions
When swords we cross with rival factions.

Centering all, the letter G,
That we may see what glory be;
For in this, a secret be
Known to masters of Geometry.

A Mason’s Working Tools, Part I

by Jay Cole Simser

A tool resting upon a shelf
Can do nothing by itself.
But if taken up with purpose pure
It can build and shape for sure.

The Mason's tools will help him grow
If he looks inside to learn and know;
The tool has a greater message for each
As life's important lessons it does teach.

That tool in his hands can change his life,
Raise him above mortal strife.
Used with purpose and with care
He can build a temple fair.

Some tools give a standard true,
To measure our lives through and through,
While others shape a character fair
As we learn their lessons there.

The compass around us a circle draws
In which we overlook our flaws.
With the plumb line and the level we meet others,
Upright and true we travel with our brothers.

The gavel governs and teaches all alike
That our rough edges from us we should strike,
Smoothing and shaping as a block of stone,
Ready to stand before God's holy throne.

Bard Owen Lorion,
on behalf of the Masonic Poets Society