Vol. XIX No. 8 — August 1941

Small Songs

It is with considerable diffidence that the Editor republishes these verses of Masonry, up to now scattered far afield in time and print. Because of the number of requests he receives for copies; the desire of so many masters and secretaries to have this or that quotation for a lodge notice; the thought that the Short Talk Bulletin is, after all, a publication of service, he braves the readers’ charges of conceit. Hopeful to blunt the point of the critics' rapiers, heartily he agrees that none of these make great music!


I sing small songs of Masonry with all I have of skill.
  Some say I sing them very well, and some, I sing them ill.
And those who say I sing them well speak from their brotherhood;
  Much better those who toll a bell could do, if they but would.
But whether I sing well or ill I know not, nor much care;
I sing my songs as best I know, and more no man may dare!

⁎  ⁎  ⁎

Lodge Night

Sitting in the lodge again; tonight we raise a master.
  “Let there be light” the choir chants — The Lesser Lights are lit,
Lighthouses for trackless seas forever growing vaster
  For little ships of brotherhood that sail the Infinite.

Square beneath the Compasses, the Book upon the altar;
  Brethren now stretch forth their hands to bring a son to light.
Rough the road and rugged — Oh, may his heart not falter,
  Shaming sacred memories of this, his holy night.

Hiram in the brow of hill, eyes gone dry with weeping,
  Spring of green Acacia and life beyond the grave;
Lion’s paw and master’s word teach death is but sleeping,
  Soul in immortality, as water in a wave.

Close the lodge and home again, ended the meeting;
  Out into the star-shine of the great All Seeing Eye,
Thankful to have had a part in a new Mason’s greeting;
  Make me too, Great Architect, worthy of the Tie.

⁎  ⁎  ⁎


(Villanelle, after Bevington)

Promises false and pledges so fair,
  Coin of the realm in a worldly mart;
Which shall I lay on the altar there?
Covered and clothed or naked and bare,
  Never a man may tell them apart,
Promises false and pledges so fair.
A serpent poisoning unaware;
  Faith that is given of lion-heart;
Which shall I lay on the altar there?
No one will know should I forswear;
  Lies of truth are oft counterpart;
Promises false and pledges so fair.
Sailing course plotted upon the square
  Or crooked the lines upon the chart?
Which shall I lay on the altar there?
The choice is secret. Everywhere
  A bitter world teaches the liar's art!
Promises false and pledges so fair;
Which shall I lay on the altar there?

⁎  ⁎  ⁎


(“Rondel”, after Bunner)

O, just once more to go to lodge again
  As in the old time when I sat with you
Before the East and learned; dear dead days when
  Our life was young and Masonry was new.
So many years between the “now” and “then,”
  So many faces gone beyond our view —
Oh, just once more to go to lodge again
  As in the old time when I sat with you.
Nor can my halting speech or limping pen
  Tell how the seeds Freemasons planted, grew,
Or all the joy there is in love of men,
  The grief that weeps when brethren say "adieu”;
Oh, just once more to go to lodge again
  As in the old time when I sat with you. . . .

⁎  ⁎  ⁎

Some Day . . .

(“Rondel”, after Swinburne)

Not yet reality; still but a dream!   Scarce we begin to pay upon the debt
The Fathers bonded; working out the theme
— Not yet.

We study still upon the alphabet,
  Our mortal vision blinded by the gleam
Which shines forth from the Unseen Minarette.
Still are the mystic ties not what they seem;
  Slow run the laggard sands ere sun may set.
Freemasons know all God’s fraternal scheme
— Not yet.

⁎  ⁎  ⁎


(“Rondeau”, after Dobson)

My Cable-tow, a tie most blessed!
In Master’s East and Warden’s West
  And Mason’s faith, a corner-stone
  For Craftsmen all; for each alone
The ancient bond of all oppressed.
Its wisdom, deep within the breast,
Grows more as less it is confessed,
  This silver cord through ages grown,
— My Cable-tow.

A mystery; much less a test
Than riddle, dearer that unguessed.
  What I know not I’ve always known;
  My brother’s tie is most my own
Dear symbol of a ceaseless quest,
— My Cable-tow.

⁎  ⁎  ⁎


(“Quartrains”, after Omar)

“The Moving Finger Writes, and having writ. . . .”
So Omar sang. Nor any Jesuit
  Can find the flaw or prove a sophistry,
Showing his wisdom to be counterfeit.

All of life’s paths lead to the black-veiled gate.
And only when we pass we see the Fate
  Which with a sword stands well-concealed behind.
When swings the portal wide it is too late.

Before the dim dread Shape we stand aghast,
Dreading his summons. Outer space is vast
  And we go forth alone and naked. Yet
We hope; he cannot take from us the past.

And in the past, the Mystic Tie . . . a key
To lock the dreadful door! We make no plea
  But in the Reaper’s face our fingers snap!
Why should we fear, who have known Masonry?

⁎  ⁎  ⁎

Low Twelve

I bring you woe and scalding tears and all life holds of sadness,
  Because I am remorseless your heart in torture pays
In coin of bitter memories of times when time was madness;
  I am the passing of your hours; I am your march of days.

Enemy and best of friends am I to those who sorrow,
  Pitiless in passing, yet Oh, so slow, so slow. . .
I hurry to the sleeping the greyness of tomorrow;
  So sluggard in my sun-down, I never seem to go.

Little bit by little bit all pain I can diminish,
  Slowly win the smile to eyes that now know but to weep.
I began your race with life, and I shall see its finish;
  My arms, and none but mine, shall in the end give sleep.

I linger not for anyone and I may not be hastened.
  You must bear your agony until I bid it cease;
But when your head is in the dust and all your pride is chastened,
  At long last, I promise you, I bring the gift of peace.

⁎  ⁎  ⁎


In flowing robes of silk and gold a merchant marketed in a bazaar. Grown overbold a poor old workman said:

“What! Seven loaves and milk, this day? They loud proclaim thy greed. Think shame thy wealth thus to display before those who have need!”

The workman paused. The rich man looked into an hungry eye.

“My task” he answered “were not done unless I make reply. These loaves are not for show or waste and. . . two are thine to take! Attend me, for I haste to tell the use of them I make. One and the milk is all I eat and two of them I lend to those who lay love at my feet (May Allah guard their end!) Two I return to those who gave my life to me and more; and two are for Muhammad’s Lord, to even up the score.”

“Of seven loaves thy tale is told! It makes thy gift a stone!” cried he who worked. The merchant: “Hold! Thy two and God’s are one. The two I lend my children eat, to square the debt someday; for none before the judgment seat bring debts they do not pay.”

“And what of those thou doth return? Are they for charity?”

“I haste with them to those who gave both clothes and food to me; to Father, Mother, now too old to win their daily bread I pay two loaves. The tale is told.”

The Merchant bowed his head.

“Thy tale, perhaps, but not yet mine!” Proud spake the ragged oaf. “This bread is God’s which once was thine, may Allah bless each loaf. Misfortune on a beggar fell; he’s hungry and alone. These go to him . . . my thanks, farewell!”

On swift feet he was gone.

In flowing robes of gold and silk a merchant took his ease. His meal was but one loaf and milk but in his heart was peace.

⁎  ⁎  ⁎


Aweary of the endless days, my lot I wept that life and love, too long, should pass so slow. Some Power my eyelids touched so that I slept and stood upon a Star. I saw below alone in space our tiny earthly sphere; its continents but islands in the deep; its tempest but a breeze; its mountains sheer, low hills; its oceans only ponds, asleep.

The northern ice revolved about a stone, a mighty boulder, grim and great and high — an hundred miles it stretched its length, moss grown; an hundred miles it towered to the sky.

So rapid spun the giant pigmy world years sped as seconds. By some mighty law ten centuries in empty space were hurled as I drew breath. A little bird I saw which rubbed its beak against the rock.

“See, there he sharpens it,” a Voice said in my ear, “Once every thousand years!”

I watched it wear the granite down until the pole was clear. When that gigantic task by one small bird in cycles of a thousand years at last was done, again the Silent Voice I heard: “But one day of Eternity has passed!”

I woke. So much to do before day’s end! I heard the call to labor as a chime, a song of instants I have yet to spend; “Not life nor love is long, but only Time!”

⁎  ⁎  ⁎

Three Sonnets

The Road

So many men before thy altars kneel
  Unthinkingly, to promise brotherhood;
  So few remain, humbly to kiss thy rood
With ears undeafened to thy mute appeal;
So many find thy symbols less than real,
  Thy teachings mystic, hard to understand;
  So few there are in all thy far-flung band
To hold thy banner high and draw thy steel,

And yet. . . Immortal and most mighty, thou!
  What hath thy lore of life to let it live?
What is the vital spark, hid in thy vow?
  Thy millions learned as thy dear paths they trod
The secret of the strength thou hast to give:
  “I am a way of common men to God.”


Seers seek for wisdoms flowers in the mind
  And write of symbols many a learned tome.
  (Grow roses still, though rooted in black loam.)
The mystic searches earth till eyes go blind
For soul of roses, yet what use to find
  A spirit penned within a catacomb?
  Nay, all they learn is weightless as sea-foam
That drifts from wave to wave upon the wind.

In rushes Cap and Bells! How very droll
  The ways of students and the foolish books;
  He finds no secrets of Freemasons art
In mind nor rose nor tomb nor musty scroll;
  Where no wit is, where all loves are, he looks
  And reads their hidden meaning in his heart.


As battle weary men long for the sea
  Like tired children, seeking Mother’s breast,
  And in its restless endlessness find rest,
Its crashing surf a soothing systole;
As seeks the storm-tossed ship the harbor’s lee,
  So mariners upon life’s deep, hard-pressed
  To weather boiling trough and mounting crest,
Steer for the shelter of Freemasonry.

Her ancient waves of sound lap on the strand
  A melody more God’s than man’s. We hear,
  Like gentle murmurs in a curved sea shell
Which whispers of some far off wonderland
  Where lightning flashes from blue skies and clear,
  The rolling thunder of the ritual.

The Masonic Service Association of North America