Proceedings of the Masonic Poets Society #8

May 2008

Table of Contents


Another seven weeks have rolled around (plus a couple – sorry about that) and it's time for another issue of the Proceedings. We hope you are all getting these, because the past two issues have produced zero feedback. Please take a minute to send Owen an e-letter just to let him know you received it. We are still an elite group of only about 50 members, so even if every one of you sent a message, it wouldn't flood his inbox that much.

If you're reading this on the Web, we hope you enjoy the rebus at the top of this page. (It's a commonly used Masonic phrase). It's just one of several innovations on the website this se'nweek. We now have three separate index pages, for Authors, Titles, and First Lines (most poems are in either Titles or First Lines – so far, very few are in both). And each one is topped by a search box and a change notification box. The search box is from Yahoo, and is a standard item we're sure you're all familiar with. The change box is something that may be new to you, though. The first time you use it, it will cause a pop-up window, asking for your sign-in. You'll need to register and tell it what eddress you want to have the notifications sent to. But once you've done that, you can give it any pages you want, anywhere on the Web, and they'll send you a notice whenever the page changes! (At least, that's the theory. We have to admit that we haven't had it up long enough to have done more than add our three index pages to their public directory. They say it takes about a week to go through all the pages they keep track of, and get back to the start again.)

We still need help. Someone to assemble a proper Links page for the website. A Publicity officer, to let people know that we exist, and get websites to change their links to our current URL instead of the obsolete one to Jerry Leighton's site (which has been taken down). An editor for the Proceedings who's better at keeping it on schedule than Owen is. And we may soon have an opening for our own Forum administrator. If you are willing to take on any of these posts, please let us know.


Poems We Don't Have

...And Why We Don't Have Them

The following policies may be controversial. We've had an opinion expressed that the poems and poets listed here should be included on our site. Please let us know how you feel about the matter.

A lot of standard poems crop up on large numbers of Masonic websites. Many of those standards you'll find duplicated on the MPoets site as well, but certain ones you won't. Here are some of the most often cited, and why we don't have them.

Abou Ben Adhem, by James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784–1859). While Leigh Hunt associated with many Masons, and even had a Mason as a son-in-law, he was not himself one. And while this poem is an excellent exemplar of our Masonic motto of "the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God," it is not explicitly Masonic. Since Mr. Hunt's poems are widely available from other sources, we regretfully exclude him from here. However, we do have a poem here that's dedicated to Hunt!

The Bridge Builder, (frequently appearing on websites with the false title To The Builders Of The Masonic Lodge) by Will Allen Dromgoole (1860-1934). Much the same as Hunt, Miss Dromgoole (yes, despite the name, she was a she) was not a Mason, had no known contact with Masonry, and her poem is widely available elsewhere. Despite the Masonic title ascribed to it, it is still the same original poem.

The Cold Within, by James Patrick Kinney (1922-1973). Nothing particularly Masonic about this poem on the intolerance and selfishness of six people who freeze to death because they're unwilling to help each other feed a fire, and no evidence that the author was a Mason.

Desiderata by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945). What more can be said about this overused bit of Aquarian Age prose? That it's not only not specifically Masonic and not by a Mason, but also that it's not a poem. While we do have a few prose-poems of this sort on our site (Red Skelton's "Pledge Of Allegience," for example), they need to pass an even stricter test of Masonic association than normal poetry.

Each In His Own Tongue by William Herbert Carruth (1859-1924). We do have this one poem by this fine author on our site here, but only because Masonic authors have added additional verses to it. While Prof. Carruth wrote many inspirational poems which would fit with the tenor of this website, the regretable lack is that he was not a Freemason.

The Most Beautiful Flower by Cheryl Costello-Forshey, about a blind child and an old man on a park bench, is from one of the Chicken Soup books. In addition to the objections to the previous poems (woman writer with no Masonic connections, for a general audience, nothing specifically Masonic about it, widely available), this poem is under copyright, and is not allowed to be on any website without written permission!

Searcher (to give it the poet's title, although it's better know as True Brotherhood) by William Blake (1757-1827). While a beautiful short poem expressing Masonically-compatible ideals, it's not really Masonic, and Blake was not a Mason. Indeed, while there were several Masons in his circle of friends, he had an extreme distrust of governments and any sort of organizations, and a philosophy that anything requiring humility (such as an initiation ceremony) was not just wrong but evil. So despite compatible principles in most other ways, he would have been an unlikely candidate.

The Touch Of The Master's Hand by Myra Brooks Welch (1878-1959). This poem about a violin and a violinist may be in tune with Masonic principles, and even uses the Masonic term of Master, but once more it's by a woman who had no known Masonic connections, was written for (and is much appreciated by) general audiences, and is widely available.

New Books on the Site

There are some new books on the website. In fact, a whole bunch of new books! We've begun collecting old Masonic Song Books or Hymnals, to present the song lyrics as poetry. While there is a lot of overlap, we have added over 400 distinct new poems from this source, most of them of high quality.

Not being originally designed as poetry books, (although many of the lyrics were probably written as poems first, and only had music added to them later), there are two great lacks with many of these. First, a horrible omission for a poet who depends on his writing for his immortality, the authors were seldom listed. And what may seem even stranger, there were often no titles; or titles were given as simply "Opening" or "Closing". Because of that, there was no way to include them in our established title index, so a separate index of first lines was set up for them. This allows a better cross-reference between songs that appear in more than one book, possibly a quarter of the total number of songs. Titles, being more arbitrary, would be less reliable for this purpose.

While a couple of these were typed in by hand, most were copied from the photoscanned files at Google Books. Using the Optical Character Reading function of Google Books gave a shortcut that allowed so many books to be added in such a short time, but it was not always as simple as that. To begin with, the books had to copied out page by page. A PDF download was available, but it didn't include a text feature, so there was no way of copying anything in it, or even looking anything up in it that way. Then, OCRs are often less than perfect, and don't include any formatting except line breaks. So the text was generally riddled with typographical errors, and still had to be laboriously proofread and formatted into HTML. Here are the books we've added this se'nweek:

Since these are presented as poetry, music has been omitted, though when possible we have included a link to help researchers find the music if they need to. Also, some of these are complete Masonic Monitors, but we've generally just extracted the poetic parts. (With a few we have include funeral rituals or lists of toasts as well).

The last book on this list, MSA: Masonic Poems, is not a songbook, but rather a collection of poetry compiled by the Secretary of the Masonic Service Association, and published as part of their "Little Masonic Library" collection, long out of print. About 40 of the 93 poems in this volume were already in our collection, and a few other poets were added to our collection because of poems they had in this book (Neal A. McAulay, L.B. Mitchell, also now identified as L.B.M., Roe Fulkerson, and expanded Harry L. Haywood).

New Poems On The Website

There haven't been many newly written poems added to the site this past se'nweek, but we'll start with one that has, from Brother Lester Morrow, The Light I Waited For, and follow it up with two from the old songbooks on the same theme, Entered — The Light by Brother Frank H. Sellery and The Light Within by Brother T. E. Garrett. Then, a segue to a "lighter" vein, Lightly O'er The Village Green, and finishing up with one by your humble editor, prompted by an off-topic thread in a Masonic forum on Irregardless. While it was written in 2008, it deals with events from 1825. To get it back into a Masonic groove, let it be pointed out that DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828) was Grand Master of Masons in New York, as well as Governor of the state.

The Light I Waited For

by Lester Morrow
Past Master,
Phillipsburg Lodge #52, F.& A. M.
Phillipsburg, NJ.

I knelt before an altar blue,
as I waited for the Light;
My heart perceived what my eyes could not,
that hot and muggy night.
A hand lead me while others prayed
and still there was no Light.

Three times I stopped, the same was asked
and answered as before.
My answers satisfied; they sent me
to the West once more;
Placed in the charge of one who'd help,
as the Light I waited for.

I wondered were my hands were placed,
and what they rested on.
Then someone said the words I sought
that ushered in the dawn
"Let there be Light," was his command!
The darkness was all gone!

As my eyes came clear
I saw it there,
That Gift to Man,
God's written Plan,
The Light I'd waited for.

Entered — The Light

by Bro. Frank H. Sellery, (1866-1942)
Grand Steward in Ontario in 1901,
from The Trestleboard, Detroit, Mich., March, 1916
reprinted in MSA: Masonic Poems.

The way was dark, no light could I discern —
I knew not whither, east or west, I went;
I did not even know the road would turn —
But I, on seeking "light," was solely bent.

I passed the ones who guard the sacred way
Then I was told to kneel and 'tend a prayer
To Deity, whose mighty power holds sway
O'er all the mortals who assembled there.

And when my heart did quake with sudden fear
That even now I might not find the light,
A soft voice whispered in my ear:
"Fear not!" and all misgivings took their flight.

At last I reached a place — 'twas holy ground;
I knelt before the "Master" on the throne,
While all the other mortals gathered round
To lend their aid and see his will was done.

I humbly asked that I the light might see,
And learned the truth as other mortals had;
And then a voice of great authority
Rang out! I saw the light and I was glad.

The Light Within

by T. E. Garrett, PGM of Missouri,
from The Freemason's Hymnal, 1875

The light within our temple beams
With brightness of the rising day,
Forecasting with mysterious gleams,
The passage of our onward way!
Be it our guide the goal to win —
The light within, the light within.

And now goes forth through lowering night
In sundered ways, our brother-band;
We bear a charm of inward sight
By which we know a brother's hand;
'Twill aid us still the goal to win —
The light within, the light within.

And when the storm-king draws around
His curtain clouds, and thunders roll;
Some voice will through the darkness sound,
To guide and cheer the sinking soul.
'Twill tell of power the goal to win —
By light within, the light within.

Song XVI:
A Glee

from The New Freemason's Monitor, Or Masonic Guide, 1818.

Lightly o'er the village green
Blue-eyed fairies sport unseen,
Round and round, in circles gay —
Then at cock-crow flit away;
Thus 'tis said though mortal eye
Never their merry freaks could spy,
Elves for mortals lisp the prayer —
Elves are guardians of the fair;
Thus, like elves, in mystic ring,
Merry Masons drink and sing.

Come then, brethren, lead along
Social rites, and mystic song!
Though nor Madam, Miss, or Bess,
Could our mysteries ever guess;
Nor could ever learnιd divine
Sacred Masonry define;
Round our order close we bind
Laws of love to all mankind.
Thus, like elves, in mystic ring,
Merry Masons drink and sing.

Health, then, to each honest man,
Friend to the Masonic plan;
Leaving parsons grave to blunder,
Leaving ladies fair to wonder,
Leaving Thomas still to lie,
Leaving Betty still to spy.
Round and round we push our glass —
Round and round each toast his lass.
Thus, like elves, in mystic ring,
Merry Masons drink and sing.


by Owen Lorion

Is there such a word as "irregardless"?
Should these four syllables a grammarian bless?
Some would say, "No, they're abominations,"
Others say, "Yes," to neologistic creations.

The argument recalls that of "Clinton's Folly,"
The canal that was going to cross New York, by golly!
Brother DeWitt Clinton (the Gov., you know)
Was the one who insisted the canal was a "go!"

So the ditch, it was dug, and they filled it with water,
And barges and boats did what they oughter.
They plied it while pulled by mules on the banks,
And tendered to Clinton their overdue thanks.

So the Erie Canal was built with much fuss,
But that's not the point that has meaning to us.
Ropes hauled by the mules would have made a big mess,
So the canal had no railing -- it was Erie, guardless.

Bard Owen Lorion,
on behalf of the Masonic Poets Society