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This is the only explicitly Masonic poem Ella ever wrote, but many of her inspirational poems are consonant with Masonic ideals. The interesting story of how "Sir Knight" was written appears in her biography below.
Worthy The Name Of 'Sir Knight'
Sir Knight of the world's oldest order,
Sir Knight of the Army of God,
You have crossed the strange mystical border,
The ground-floor of truth you have trod;
You stand on the typical threshold
Which leads to the temple above;
Where you come as a stone,
and a Christ-chosen one,
In the Kingdom of Friendship and Love.
As you stand in this new realm of beauty,
Where each man you meet is your friend,
Think not that your promise of duty
In hall, or asylum, shall end.
Outside, in the great world of pleasure.
Beyond in the clamour of trade,
In the battle of life
and its coarse daily strife,
Remember the vows you have made.
Your service, majestic and solemn,
Your symbols, suggestive and sweet,
Your uniform phalanx in column
On gala-days marching the street;
Your sword and your plume and your helmet,
Your 'secrets' hid from the world's sight;
These things are the small,
lesser parts of the all
Which are needed to form the true Knight.
The martyrs who perished rejoicing,
In Templary's glorious laws,
Who died 'midst the faggots while voicing
The glory and worth of their cause—
They honoured the title of 'Templar'
No more than the Knight of to-day,
Who mars not the name
with one blemish of shame,
But carries it clean through life's fray.
To live for a cause; to endeavour
To make your deeds grace it; to try
And uphold its precepts for ever,
Is harder by far than to die.
For the battle of life is unending,
The enemy, Self, never tires,
And the true Knight must slay
that sly foe every day,
Ere he reaches the heights he desires.
Sir Knight, have you pondered the meaning
Of all you have heard and been told?
Have you strengthened your heart for its weaning
From vices and faults loved of old?
Will you honour, in hours of temptation,
Your promises noble and grand?
Will your spirit be strong
to do battle with wrong,
'And, having done all, to stand'?
Will you ever be true to a brother
In actions as well as in creed?
Will you stand by his side as no other
Could stand, in the hour of his need?
Will you boldly defend him from peril,
And lift from him poverty's curse —
Will the promise of old,
which you willingly made,
Reach down from your lips to your purse?
The world's battle-field is before you:
Let Wisdom walk close by your side,
Let Faith spread her snowy wings o'er you,
Let Truth be your comrade and guide;
Let Fortitude, Justice, and Mercy
Direct all your conduct aright,
And let each word and act
tell to men the proud fact,
You are worthy the name of 'Sir Knight.'
A good commentary on the Masonic virtue of religious tolerance.
Wilcox wrote several poems on this theme, such as
All Roads That Lead To God Are Good
All roads that lead to God are good.
What matters it, your faith, or mine?
Both centre at the goal divine
Of love’s eternal Brotherhood.
The kindly life in house or street –
The life of prayer and mystic rite –
The student’s search for truth and light –
These paths at one great Junction meet.
Before the oldest book was writ,
Full many a prehistoric soul
Arrived at this unchanging goal,
Through changeless Love, that leads to it.
What matters that one found his Christ
In rising sun, or burning fire?
In faith within him did not tire,
His longing for the Truth sufficed.
Before our modern hell was brought
To edify the modern world,
Full many a hate-filled soul was hurled
In lakes of fire by its own thought.
A thousand creeds have come and gone,
But what is that to you or me?
Creeds are but branches of a tree –
The root of love lives on and on.
Though branch by branch proved withered wood,
The root is warm with precious wine.
Then keep your faith, and leave me mine –
All roads that lead to God are good.
Religious tolerance was not the only kind of tolerance Wilcox wrote about.
God, may Thy loving Spirit work,
In heart of Russian, and of Turk,
Until throughout each clime and land,
Armenian and Jew may stand,
And claim the right of every soul
To seek by its own path, the goal.
Parts of the Universal Force,
Rills from the same eternal Source
Back to that Source, all races go.
God, help Thy world to see it so.
The Masonic connection on this one may only be apparent if you are also familiar with To Anacreon In Heaven
Momus, God Of Laughter
Though with gods the world is cumbered,
Gods unnamed, and gods unnumbered,
Never god was known to be
Who had not his devotee.
So I dedicate to mine,
Here in verse, my temple-shrine.
‘Tis not Ares, - mighty Mars,
Who can give success in wars.
‘Tis not Morpheus, who doth keep
Guard above us while we sleep,
‘Tis not Venus, she whose duty
‘Tis to give us love and beauty;
Hail to these, and others, after
Momus, gleesome god of laughter.
Quirinus would guard my health,
Plutus would insure me wealth;
Mercury looks after trade,
Hera smiles on youth and maid.
All are kind, I own their worth,
After Momus, god of mirth.
Though Apollo, out of spite,
Hides away his face of light,
Though Minerva looks askance,
Deigning me no smiling glance,
Kings and queens may envy me
While I claim the god of glee.
Wisdom wearies, Love had wings –
Wealth makes burdens, Pleasure stings,
Glory proves a thorny crown –
So all gifts the gods throw down
Bring their pains and troubles after;
All save Momus, god of laughter.
He alone gives constant joy.
Hail to Momus, happy boy.
This has nothing to do with Masonry, but everything to do with our other interest here, Poetry!
Old Rhythm And Rhyme
They tell me new methods now govern the Muses,
The modes of expression have changed with the times;
That low is the rank of the poet who uses
The old-fashioned verse with intentional rhymes.
And quite out of date, too, is rhythmical metre;
The critics declare it an insult to art.
But oh! the sweet swing of it, oh! the clear ring of it,
Oh the great pulse of it, right from the heart,
Art or no art.
I sat by the side of that old poet, Ocean,
And counted the billows that broke on the rocks;
The tide lilted in with a rhythmical motion;
The sea-gulls dipped downward in time-keeping flocks.
I watched while a giant wave gathered its forces,
And then on the gray granite precipice burst;
And I knew as I counted, while other waves mounted,
I knew the tenth billow would rhyme with the first.
Below in the village a church bell was chiming,
And back in the woodland a little bird sang;
And, doubt it who will, yet those two sounds were rhyming,
As out o'er the hill-tops they echoed and rang.
The Wind and the Trees fell to talking together;
And nothing they said was didactic or terse;
But everything spoken was told in unbroken
And beautiful rhyming and rhythmical verse.
So rhythm I hail it, though critics assail it,
And hold melting rhymes as an insult to art,
For oh! the sweet swing of it, oh! the dear ring of it,
Oh! the strong pulse of it, right from the heart,
Art or no art.
from The Englishman and Other Poems, 1912
Born Ella Wheeler on November 5, 1850, on a farm in Wisconsin to Marcus and Sarah Pratt Wheeler, Ella was the youngest of two boys and two girls. A precocious poet, her first published work appeared in the New York Mercury when she was in her early teens. Soon her poems, articles, and stories were appearing in several magazines.
In the last half of the 1800s, a strong prohibition wave was sweeping over North America. Temperance Lodges, modeled after the Freemasons but including women and older children, and with only initiations, no degrees, became numerous. They had names like The Royal Templars of Temperance and the Independent Order of Good Templars. A lodge of the I.O.G.T. met in Ella Wheeler's schoolhouse, and her family were charter members. Many of her earlier verses were in support of total abstinence and in opposition to booze, its makers, and its vendors. Wheeler's first book, a collection of fifty-six temperance verses, appeared in 1872 when they were published in a volume entitled Drops of Water. The rejection of her fourth book, a collection of love poems, by a Chicago publisher on grounds that it was immoral, pushed her into the national limelight. This helped ensure its success when it was issued by another publisher in 1883 as Poems of Passion, a titillating title that was billed as "too racy for the Scarlet City of Chicago!"
In 1884 she married Robert M. Wilcox and moved from Wisconsin to his home in Meriden, Connecticut, nearer his silver business in New York City. She tells an interesting story about this in her autobiography, The World And I:
"[Originally very uncomfortable in Meriden, the first I felt at home], as a poet, came through the St. Elmo Commandery, K. T., the Masonic organization of which my husband was a member. Meriden's very important man, Mr.H.Wales Lines, asked me to write a poem for an occasion in the near future when the Commandery was to be honored by the presence of some distinguished guests. Robert brought the request to me and seemed desirous for me to write the poem. He provided me with such books and literature as would give me the history of the Masonic Order, an order of which I knew little, save that it held secrets which no woman could share.
"I felt much concern about my ability to do honor to the occasion (or rather, to do honor to my husband, which was my leading thought, I am sure).
"I toiled in my little study for two or three days without being able to write one satisfying line ... [while we had guests] ... I went up to my study, but in a few minutes I came down with my writing materials and asked them to let me sit in their midst and write. I felt that such a congenial atmosphere would bring an inspiration. And sure enough it did. So, there in that social circle I began and completed the poem which delighted not only my husband but the whole Commandery, and not only the Commandery, for the poem has been used periodically by Masonic orders all over the world at many distinguished gatherings. Just at the beginning of the war my publishers in London wrote me enthusiastically regarding this poem. But, best of all, it brought me, at the time it was written, in closer touch with my husband's friends and made Meriden seem a little more like home to me."
As Ella had a strong interest in mysticism, she, along with 'Frater' Elbert Hubbard, H.Spencer Lewis, and J.K.Funk, president of Funk and Wagnalls Publishing Co., became officers of the Rosicrucian Research Society. The Society held monthly meetings from 1904-1909 in New York City. As they were not chartered or authorized to use the name Rosicrucian, they operated publicly as the New York Institute for Psychical Research. Much thanks to the efforts of H. Spencer Lewis, proper contacts and authorizations to commence the Rosicrucian movement in America were obtained. In 1915 a Rosicrucian Charter was granted with H. Spencer Lewis as Imperator. Ella Wheeler Wilcox was appointed as a member of the first Supreme Council of the American Rosicrucian Movement. Thus, she played an active role in establishing the Rosicrucian movement. She served as a Supreme Council officer until her death.
With her husband's death in 1916 after 32 years of blissful marriage, Ella made her long-standing interest in spiritualism the subject of a series of columns as she sought to contact his spirit. She spent a year vainly seeking out spiritualists, clairvoyants, mediums, and occult advisors across California (which she felt had better spiritual vibes), but when she finally made contact with her beloved husband it was back at home in Connecticut with a simple Ouija board! At her husband's spirit's direction, Wilcox undertook a lecture and poetry-reading tour of Allied army camps in France in 1918. She fell ill early in 1919 and died of breast cancer at her home in Short Beach, Connecticut, on October 30, 1919.