Table of Contents

David Vinton
  1. Dirge
  2. A Biography of Bro. Vinton

This dirge is used for Hiram's funeral procession in the third degree in many American forms of the ritual. In some jurisdictions, only the first four verses are used; in others, the first and fourth are used; so this is a longer version than most of you are likely to have heard before. The music is known as "Pleyel's Hymn," and was written by Brother Ignatz Joseph Pleyel in 1791. You can hear the music and see the score at Mason


Solemn strikes the funeral chime!
Notes of our departing time,
As we journey here below,
On a pilgrimage of woe.

Brothers, now indulge a tear,
For mortality is here!
See how wide her trophies wave,
O'er the slumbers of the grave.

Here another guest we bring,
Seraphs of Celestial wing,
To our funeral altar come,
Waft this friend and brother home.

Lord of all, below, above,
Fill our hearts with Truth and Love.
As dissolves our earthly tie,
Take us to Thy Lodge on High.

For beyond the grave there lie
Brighter mansions in the sky!
Where, enthroned, the Diety
Gives man immortality.

There enlarged, thy soul shall see,
What was veiled in mystery;
Heavenly glories of the place
Show his maker face to face.

God of life's eternal day!
Guide us, lest from Thee we stray,
By a false, delusive light,
To the shades of endless night.

Calm, the good man meets his fate;
Guards celestial 'round him wait.
See! he bursts these mortal chains,
And o'er Death the vict'ry gains.

Written in 1816

David Vinton (1774-1833)

(This information comes from The Lost Masonic Dirge by J.R.Martin, The Builder Magazines for March, 1915, January, 1917, and April, 1917, and background material from an article on Jeremy Ladd Cross.)

Brother Vinton was born was born in Medford, Mass., Jan. 6, 1774. He was named after his father, but the elder David died when the boy was only 4 years old, so he never bothered to to use Junior on his name. After serving an apprenticeship in Boston he moved to Providence and established himself in business as a gold- and silversmith. There he married Mary Atwell, daughter of a prominent Rhode Island family, and together they raised 6 children. He was a respected member of the community in Providence, not rich but moderately successful.

Brother Vinton was a member of Mount Vernon Lodge No. 4 of Providence, R.I. He was quite prominent in the Masonic Fraternity, and in 1816 compiled and published a volume entitled "The Masonic Minstrel." Actually, the full title was "The Masonic Minstrel, a Selection of Masonic, Sentimental, and Amorous Songs. Duets, Glees, Canons, Rounds and Canzonets, Respectfully Dedicated to the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons," with an appendix containing a short historical sketch of Masonry and a list of all the Lodges in the United States. It was printed for the author by H. Mann and Company, Dedham, Mass., and more than twelve thousand copies were sold to the Craft. [If anyone can get ahold of this book and send in some more song/poems by Vinton, it would be appreciated!] It was in this hymnal that the words of the dirge used in the Third Degree were first printed.

Vinton was an itinerant American masonic lecturer, who taught the York Rite degree work in other states, mainly in the south, Georgia and the Carolinas for certain, and possibly as far north as New York. At that time in history, a number of men made their living as Masonic lecturers, granting degrees and founding consistories, chapters, councils, or whatever, including Jeremy Ladd Cross, Thomas Webb (who also lived in Providence) and others. There was a certain amount of competition between these lecturers, and by ranging so far afield, Vinton may have encroached on the territories that others felt was their own, leading to what happened next.

He was expelled from the Grand Lodge of North Carolina in 1821 for un-Masonic conduct. The charges against David Vinton were selling manuscripts of the Masonic lectures, conferring the Mark and Past Master's degrees without any authority to do so and pocketing the fees, and stating to subordinate Lodges that he had authority from the Grand Lodge which he had not. And further, that he had left his family and that they were being supported by the Lodge. In 1822 his home lodge in R.I., which among other things stated that he was supporting his family well enough without their help, exhonorated him of all these charges; but not before his reputation had been sullied by rumor and innuendo.

In 1826 came the Morgan Affair, which sparked a wave of anti-Masonic feeling across the nation, and probably put a damper on Vinton's further efforts as a lecturer. He died in July, 1833 while on a visit to Kentucky on Masonic business, and was buried Shakertown, Kentucky. It's reported that he was buried without Masonic honors because he had descended into alcoholism and disgraced the fraternity, but if there were no Masonic rites at his interment, it seems more likely that it was for fear of the anti-Masonic sentiments of the time.


Addenda: Vinton's 1816 book was not the only "Masonic Minstrel" published. A Mason named J.Johnson compiled "The Masonic Minstrel: Being A Complete Collection Of Odes, Anthems, Songs, Prologues, Etc. : Together With A List Of Toasts And Sentiments", first published in 1828, and listed on Google Books as variously, 253 pages, and 264 pages. In 1877, the publisher re-issued it with the title "The Masonic Minstrel: Being A Collection Of Songs, Odes, Anthems, And Occasional Pieces ..." listed as 215 pages, and a 24 page supplement or appendix with the same title, but no author named. As of this writing (Oct.2009) none of these books are available on-line.