Proceedings of the Masonic Poets Society #6
This is a bit closer to a properly scheduled edition of the Proceedings. Problem is, there have been few new contemporary poems sent in since last time, so we've had to reach back a few months to pick a selection of new poems; but we think you'll find them all top quality.
On the other hand, there have been a lot of older poems added to the site. And we do mean a lot! We have doubled the number of poems in our index. The largest part of these were from finally getting the 300-some poems by Rob Morris from The Poetry Of Freemasonry integrated with our index, although the poems have been available for over a year. But there have also been large numbers of additions from other past-generation authors. Owen has also been busy writing thumbnail biographies of many of these authors, many all but forgotten. For example:
Franklyn Warner Lee (1864-1898)
Brother Frank Lee was born in New York City, June 16, 1864. At that time his father, a Union soldier, was in the Confederate prison of Andersonville. His father survived the war, but passed away while Franklyn was still young. At the age of fourteen the boy left the New York public schools and began earning his own living. In 1881, with his widowed mother and younger brother, he moved West, settling at Des Moines, where he supported the family at first as a retail clerk. But while he was working at menial tasks, he was also developing his talents in writing verse and in amateur journalism. The latter developed into professional journalism when he took the opportunity to become city editor of the Des Moines Daily News. In 1887 Mr. Lee moved to St. Paul to join the Daily News, and when that paper folded, the St. Paul Dispatch. He was a gifted public speaker, and in those days before television and movies, he was a popular entertainer with his humorous monologues and recitations of his poems, particularly the dialect ones. In 1896 Mr. Lee, who had been in poor health for years, moved to Rush City, Minnesota, where he had purchased a weekly, The Post. He died there just two years later, March 18, 1898. The Maine had been sunk just a month before, which precipitated the Spanish-American War, declared a month after his death; it is somewhat ironic that this peaceful man was born in the agony of the Civil War, and wrote his last poem in support of another conflict.
It was while Franklyn was living in Iowa that he met his wife, Marilla Upright, at a Lutheran social group. They wed in 1886. They had two children who were still only 7 and 10 when their father died. He was an exceptionally attentive family man, and during the several years of illness leading up to his death he and his wife, also a noted platform speaker, worked closely together.
One of his obituaries summed up his life thus, "In his heart there was nothing unworthy." He felt perfectly satisfied if a single man, woman or child had been made happier or better through something he had written. If there was any overarching theme to his writing, it was that: "there was nothing unworthy." He wrote of tiny things; a breath, a wilted flower, a child's footsteps. Even in his only surviving Masonic poem, he writes of something humble, an apron, but makes the reader realize how great that small thing really is. There was, to Franklyn W. Lee, nothing unworthy.
New Books on the Site
As mentioned above, the book of Rob Morris's poetry has finally been indexed, and most of it has been corrected and converted into HTML format. If you ever want to see a coder's nightmare, look at the source code that MSWord produced for the book as we originally had it on the site! The 400 pages of poems don't even start until nearly half-way through the file, and every line of text is surrounded by two or three lines of code! But to return to the book, Morris had divided it up into five parts, and subdivided a couple of those further. In breaking it down to smaller, more manageable files, we kept it at the five, and added two others — a more comprehensive index; and although this book was compiled by Morris in 1884, the edition we have was issued in 1895, after Morris's death, and so contains a large posthumous biographical section, which has also been awarded a file of its own. The biographical section and Part V, poems by other authors, were edited and added to our index a year ago. The others, I. Christian Knighthood, II. Memories of Holy Land, III. Symbolic Masonry, and IV. Melodies of Adoptive Masonry, have only now been properly hyperlinked, and a few poems in Parts II and III are still unformatted.
Also new is the text of a book by Charles Fotheringham. Ramblings in Masonry And Other Poems is a collection of 71 poems by this talented Mason, who passed away in 1978. These pieces had been displayed on two other websites, but both of those webmasters apparently got their text from the same source, an Optical Character Reader interpretation of the book. OCRs are notorious for typos (the poetic words hath and doth are routinely read as bath and cloth, for example), and several parts of poems were mixed when this book was digitized, which in this case also shuffled some page orders; with the result that the first half of a few poems were paired with the last half of different poems. The results had to sometimes be reconstructed like a jigsaw puzzle. The really fun one was one that had apparently been printed in a center column, across two pages, so that the first half of each line was with one poem, and the last half of each line was with a different poem, in a different file! It is hoped that all the typos have been fixed, and the verses rearranged properly here on the Masonic Poets Society website. We also have them split between 3 files, which we feel is more convenient than the other websites' method of putting each individual poem on a separate page.
New Features on the Site
Not only do we have a lot of new poems on the site, but the site itself has also changed some. The "highlighted" poets were getting out of hand, so now the home page is devoted to just two indexes: one of authors (over 30 of which include biographies on their individual pages), and one for poem titles (over 800 so far, and growing).
There are also a few special theme pages, listed between the two major index lists. Most of these have been there for a while, but do check out the new one for "The Knife And Fork Degree!"
All of the rest of the textual material that used to be on the home page has been moved to a supplement page: Introductions, Copyright Notice, Key to Symbols, and several categories of Links. This last item is one that has been particularly poorly developed, and a volunteer is desperately needed to maintain it! Just send in your willingness to help via the Submissions Page.
Oh, did we not mention the Submissions Page yet? This may be the most exciting addition. A page for authors or contributors to send in new poems, old poems, comments, or anything else! So far, it's still pristine and unused. So look it over, and then send us something!
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 Death Of The Master
A crime made red the gates! Then turmoil broke
Across the men who wrought with plumb and square;
They huddled round the Pillars, Porch and Stair
And cried with anguished breath, "Our strength is smoke
Now he is gone; for who can now invoke
The guiding light of Wisdom's Secret Word!" Despair
Benumed the hands that sought to labor there
And dust hung round the Temple like a cloak.
And I, these ages after, feel the guilt!
For I it was who slew within my heart
By ruffians Sloth and Greed, the Master's Word!
Where stands the Temple now? In dust and silt
Its secret buried lies, and all its art
Looks mocking at me from my Trestle Board.
Nothing particularly Masonic about this, but it's a nice poem, and one of only a few we could find by this author.
Friends In The Desert
- An Arab, who across the lonely desert fared,
- Sought rest in an oasis on his dreary way,
- And there found one who gladly with him shared —
- Who gave an Arab's welcome and drove care away.
- They parted: and each camel's stride left far behind
- The green oasis and the stranger-friend new found:
- Yet in his tent, surrounded by his tribal kind,
- The first bethought him of that one day's quiet round.
- He told his kindred of the stranger he had met;
- But still the tale of friendship found no lodgment there.
- Quoth one: "You knew this stranger but a day, and yet
- Would give him place, nor let old friends his kingdom share."
- "'Tis true, Ben Ali," said the first. His voice was low
- And sweet and tender as he turned to him that spoke.
- "'Twas but a day; but in that day I feel — I know —
- That soul met soul and souls on higher planes awoke.
- "Each met a stranger and in him a friend discerned;
- Each drank the holy waters of the well of Truth;
- Each fed the mystic flame that in each bosom burned,
- And perfect friendship had the strength of perfect youth."
- Ben Ali laughed; the others lightly jeered and sneered.
- "Shall one poor day," they cried in scorn, "such friendship lend?"
- And he that held it neither sneers nor laughter feared,
- But asked the Prophet's blessing on his stranger-friend.
A New Year's Greeting To The Craft
- Happy greetings, brethren all,
- Where'er upon this earthly ball
- You toil with heart or hand.
- Another year has sped and gone,
- And still we have to travel on,
- And hope to reach the better land.
- The year gone by has had its cares,
- Its hopes, its joys, its doubts and fears,
- But we have lived them through.
- And still another year is given,
- By our kind "Father who art in heaven,"
- To whom our thanks and praise are due.
- How few, within the year just past,
- Have dreamed that it would be their last
- And yet have passed away;
- Have crossed the bourne whence none return,
- While we are left their loss to mourn;
- To work and labor whilst 'tis day.
- Dear brethren, let us start anew,
- Our faith, our hope, our love renew,
- E'er walking by the square.
- Let all our labors have a plan
- To bind us truly, man to man,
- In fellowship most rare.
- This year the blind will need our light,
- The poor seek favor in our sight,
- And loudly they may call.
- To us our duty is quite clear,
- Nor should we rank or riches fear,
- Nor into favoritism fall.
- Those only who with honest mind,
- With hearts prepared our light to find,
- Such only should the craft accept,
- As fit and worthy to be named
- And stand most worthy Masons' framed;
- All others let the lodge reject.
- If thus our vows stand duly tyled
- Our harmony cannot be spoiled,
- But peace and love shall reign.
- The craft will work with right good will,
- Its purpose, aims and ends fulfill,
- And Masonry her mission gain.
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.
New Poems by Living Poets
- Oh yes, we are all Craftsmen,
- and very proud to be;
- We wear our pins and rings
- for everyone to see.
- But let us pose the question
- even though the thought may sting,
- Would you know me for a Mason
- if you did not see my ring?
- For we must show the tenets
- of our Ancient Hallowed Creed
- Not by coats or fingers,
- but by our word and deed.
- There is one thing to remember,
- if I've learned my lesson well;
- My deeds are more convincing
- than my finger or lapel.
Brother Kelley writes: [This is] a poem dedicated to the recipient of a 50-year Jewel presentation which, whilst written for one particular person, could easily be adapted to suit another. You will notice it is written in rhyming triplets. I did this in an attempt to to replicate the three knocks in Freemasonry.
- In nineteen hundred and fifty-four
- A Tyler knocked on a guarded door
- And a candidate entered hoodwinked and unsure.
- Strangely attired in darkness he trod,
- With left knee made bare and one foot slipshod,
- Declaring his faith and reliance in God.
- With the ceremony ended his work had begun,
- Much to be learnt, much to be done,
- And he had the will that was second to none.
- He applied himself to all that was good
- And learnt the meaning of true brotherhood
- And of helping another as all Masons should.
- Then being passed to the second degree,
- A Fellow craft now this Mason would be,
- And no-one sought knowledge more fervent than he.
- Level and upright like plumb-rule and square,
- Conducting himself with caution and care,
- Seeking the meaning of everything there.
- Now the third step he was ready to take,
- With a new obligation he never would break,
- And a symbolic journey that he still had to make.
- Thus was he raised to the degree he had sought,
- Ever improved in deed, word, and thought,
- Conducting himself as a good Mason ought.
- Elected to office, he filled every chair,
- And made an impression on everyone there
- As a Master whose rule was gentle and fair.
- To other degrees his attention then turned,
- With other new secrets yet to be learned,
- And a desire for knowledge that inwardly burned.
- He served in Grand Lodge and gave it his all,
- Whatever was needed he answered the call.
- For what he’s achieved, he can proudly stand tall,
- He’s adorned the Craft and everything in it,
- Set an example and kept every tenet.
- For his great contribution we say, "Thanks, Harvey Bennet!"
The author writes: My wife is often called upon to play piano or organ for the Order of the Eastern Star. So while she was playing for them, I wrote the following poem to her:
Organist of the O.E.S.
Brenda is the organist
For meetings of the O.E.S.
She keeps the meetings far from drear
By playing what they like to hear.
Sometimes she'll play a march so prancing
That everyone will feel like dancing.
And when she plays a funeral dirge,
To weep will be the general urge.
She sounds a patriotic air,
And all adore their nation fair!
Music sweet and soft, pastoral,
Brings lightness, and a light, auroral.
A call to arms by music martial
Will make the whole assembly marshal!
Plays a song of past love lost,
And all emit a sigh, so soft.
Plays the vibrant victory triumph,
Honored feel the souls, defiant!
Plays with reverence of God's love,
And all hear heavenly choirs above.
Yes, Brenda plays the keyboard sweet
With talent in her hands and feet;
But to her audience it seems
She gives to them their souls and dreams.
Another Third Degree
Once again the drama unfolds
Parts are played and lessons told.
A Brother enters - hoodwinked, unaware
Of what fell doings will happen there.
He need not fear, the Craft is kind.
‘Tis a great lesson which he will find.
The Obligation is taken, yet once more said,
and still another vow is made.
Since ancient times Brothers learn and grow
This sacred mystery to know.
To learn to be a Master subduing all strife
Brothers helping Brothers throughout life
No secrets here - the truth is for all to know
To study, to learn, and always to grow.
To find God’s reward at the end of the search
A Master Mason, a Brother, a true friend each.
Lodge is a school and our life a study, we work together and once again
The drama unfolds, parts are played and we learn to be men.
Bard Owen Lorion,
on behalf of the Masonic Poets Society