Vol. XXIV No. 9 — September 1946

Great Songs

Hundreds of devoted brethren have struck their lyres to make music of Freemasonry. Many have lilted only small songs (See Short Talk Bulletin, August 1941), but a few have fingered great harmonies from their strings.

Herewith are eight, generally considered as among the loveliest songs of the Ancient Craft, republished as a matter of convenience to those who know not where to look to find the melodies of Masonry.

No evaluation of worth is intended in the arrangement, which is of convenience in a restricted space. All are taken from Volume 20 of the Little Masonic Library, Copyright by The Masonic Service Association, 1925, and Southern Publishers, 1946.

(Popularly sung in lodges everywhere in the second section of the Master’s Degree.)

Ah, When Shall We Three

By John H. Sheppard

Ah, when shall we three meet, like them
Who last were at Jerusalem?
For three there were, but one is not, —
He lies where ’Cacia marks the spot.

Though poor he was, with kings he trod;
Though great, he humbly knelt to God;
Ah, when shall those restore again
The broken link of friendship’s chain?

Behold, where mourning beauty bent
In silence o’er his monument,
And widely spread in sorrow there
The ringlets of her flowing hair!

The future Sons of Grief will sigh,
While standing round in mystic tie,
And raise their hands, alas! to Heaven,
In anguish that no hope is given.

From whence we came, or whither go,
Ask me no more, nor seek to know,
Till three shall meet who formed, like them
The grand lodge at Jerusalem.

(Though no mention of Freemasonry is in this poem, its spirit is that of the Craft.)

Abou Ben Adhem

By John H. Sheppard

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?” — The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”
“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

(A well-loved poet wrote this lovely if sad hymn of life and labor.)

The Palace

By Rudyard Kipling

When I was a King and a Mason - a Master proven and skilled
I cleared me ground for a Palace such as a King should build.
I decreed and dug down to my levels. Presently under the silt
I came on the wreck of a Palace such as a King had built.

There was no worth in the fashion - there was no wit in the plan -
Hither and thither, aimless, the ruined footings ran -
Masonry, brute, mishandled, but carven on every stone:
“After me cometh a Builder. Tell him I too have known.

Swift to my use in the trenches, where my well-planned ground-works grew,
I tumbled his quoins and his ashlars, and cut and reset them anew.
Lime I milled of his marbles; burned it slacked it, and spread;
Taking and leaving at pleasure the gifts of the humble dead.

Yet I despised not nor gloried; yet, as we wrenched them apart,
I read in the razed foundations the heart of that builder’s heart.
As he had written and pleaded, so did I understand
The form of the dream he had followed in the face of the thing he had planned.

⁎  ⁎  ⁎

When I was a King and a Mason, in the open noon of my pride,
They sent me a Word from the Darkness. They whispered and called me aside.
They said - “The end is forbidden.” They said - “Thy use is fulfilled.
“Thy Palace shall stand as that other’s - the spoil of a King who shall build.”

I called my men from my trenches, my quarries my wharves and my sheers.
All I had wrought I abandoned to the faith of the faithless years.
Only I cut on the timber - only I carved on the stone:
“After me cometh a Builder. Tell him, I too have known.”

(No more beautiful pastoral can be found in Masonic poetry than this tender conception.)

God’s Freemasonry

By H. L. Haywood

Here in a lodge of pines I sit;
The canopy thrown over it
  Is heaven’s own of very blue;
Due east and west its precinct's lie
And always the all-seeing eye
  Of summer’s sun is shining through.

Its portals open to the west;
The chipmunk, gray and sober dressed,
  The tyler is: You see him dodge
To challenge every new alarm:
He has no sword upon his arm
  But well he guards this secret lodge.

Our Master is that giant pine
Who bends o’er us with mien divine
  To keep the lodge in order trim:
His Wardens are two grey-beard birch
Who sit like elders in a church
  Or make decorous bows to him.

The Deacons are two slender trees,
Who move about whene’er the breeze
  Brings orders from the Master’s seat;
Our organist? Where thickest glooms
Are darkening in the pine tops plumes
  The brother winds our music beat.

Whoever knocks upon the door
To learn the ancient wildwood lore,
  That one he is our candidate:
We strip him of his city gear,
And meet him on the level here,
  Then to our ways initiate.

We slip the hoodwink from his eye
And bid him look on earth and sky
  To read the hieroglyphics there;
More ancient these than Golden Fleece
Or Roman Eagle, Tyre, or Greece,
  Or Egypt old beyond compare.

On grass and stone and flower and sod
Is written down by hand of God
  The secrets of this Masonry;
Who has the hoodwink from his eyes
May in these common things surprise
  The awful signs of Deity.

Here bird and plant and man and beast
Are seeking their Eternal East:
  And here in springtime may be heard,
By him who doth such teachings seek
With praying heart, and wise, and meek,
  The thundering of the old Lost Word.

All things that in creation are
  From smallest fly to largest star,
In this fellowship may be
For all that floweth out from Him
From dust to man and seraphim
  Belong to God’s Freemasonry.

(By no means great poetry, this is probably the best known of all Masonic verse.)

The Level and the Square

By Rob Morris

We meet upon the Level and we part upon the Square;
What words of precious meaning those words Masonic are!
Come, let us contemplate them! They are worthy of a thought;
In the very walls of Masonry the sentiment is wrought.

We meet upon the Level, though from every station come,
The rich man from his palace and the poor man from his home;
For the rich must leave his wealth and state outside the Mason’s door,
And the poor man finds his best respect upon the Checkered Floor.

We act upon the Plumb — ’tis the orders of our Guide -
We walk upright in virtue’s way and lean to neither side;
Th’ All-Seeing Eye that reads our hearts doth bear us witness true,
That we still try to honor God and give each man his due.

We part upon the Square, for the world must have its due;
We mingle with the multitude, a faithful band and true;
But the influence of our gatherings in memory is green,
And we long upon the Level to renew the happy scene.

There’s a world where all are equal — we are hurrying towards it fast,
We shall meet upon the Level there, when the gates of Death are passed;
We shall stand before the Orient, and our Master will be there,
To try the blocks we offer with His own unerring Square.

We shall meet upon the Level there, but never thence depart;
There’s a Mansion — ’tis all ready for each trusting, faithful heart -
There’s a Mansion, and a Welcome, and a multitude is there
Who have met upon the Level, and been tried upon the Square.

Let us meet upon the Level, then, while laboring patient here;
Let us meet and let us labor, though the labor be severe;
Already in the western sky the signs bid us prepare
To gather up our working tools and part upon the Square.

Hands round, ye faithful Brotherhood, the bright fraternal chain,
We part upon the Square below, to meet in heaven again!
What words of precious meaning those words Masonic are -
We meet upon the Level and we part upon the Square.

(The history of the world and of time are the bars on which the musician spread the notes of this carol.)

Each in His Own Tongue

By William Herbert Carruth

A fire-mist and a planet -
  A crystal and a cell
A jelly-fish and a saurian,
  And caves where the cavemen dwell;
Then a sense of law and beauty
  And a face turned from the clod -
Some call it Evolution,
  And others call it God.

A haze on the far horizon,
  The infinite, tender sky,
The rich ripe tint of the cornfields,
  And the wild geese sailing high -
And all over the uplands and lowland
  The charm of the golden rod —
Some of us call it Autumn,
  And others call it God.

Like tides on a crescent sea-beach,
  When the moon is new and thin,
Into our hearts high yearnings
  Come welling and surging in -
Come from the mystic ocean
  Whose rim no foot has trod -
Some of us call it Longing,
  And others call it God.

A picket frozen on duty -
  A mother starved for her brood -
Socrates drinking the hemlock —
  And Jesus on the rood;
And millions who, humble and nameless,
  The straight hard pathway plod -
Some call it Consecration,
  And others call it God.

(by another hand)

Brethren banded together
  Hand in hand for good,
Joined for mankind’s uplift,
  United in brotherhood.
Each of the band a builder,
  Faces turned from the sod;
Some folks call it Masonry
  And others call it God.

(Familiar, joyous and nostalgic, this sweet song is loved by all who know it.)

I Sat in Lodge with You

By Wilbur D. Nesbit

There is a saying filled with cheer,
  Which calls a man to fellowship.
It means as much for him to hear
  As lies within the brother-grip.
Nay, more! It opens wide the way
  To friendliness sincere and true;
There are no strangers when you say
  To me: “I sat in lodge with you.”

When that is said, then I am known;
  There is not questioning or doubt;
I need not walk my path alone
  Nor from my fellows be shut out.
Those words hold all of brotherhood
  And help me face the world anew -
There’s something deep and rich and good
  In this: “I sat in lodge with you.”

Though in far lands one needs must roam,
  By sea and shore and hill and plain,
Those words bring him a touch of home
  And lighten tasks that seem in vain.
Men’s faces are no longer strange
  But seem as those he always knew
When someone rings the joyous change
  With his: “I sat in lodge with you.”

So you, my brother, now and then
  Have often put me in your debt
By showing forth to other men
  That you your friends do not forget.
When all the world seems gray and cold
  And I am weary, worn and blue,
Then comes this golden thought I hold -
  You said: “I sat in lodge with you.”

When to the last great lodge you fare
  My prayer is that I may be
One of your friends who wait you there,
  Intent your smiling face to see.
We, with the warder at the gate,
  Will have a pleasant task to do;
We’ll call, though you come soon or late:
  “Come in! We sat in lodge with you!”

(Grandeur of conception is in the depths of this solemn chant.)

The Voice of America

By Josephine B. Bowman

I have taken the breed of all nations,
  Barred no religion or race;
From the highest and lowest of stations
  They came — and I found them place.

Powers invisible drew them,
  Freedom unborn was their quest,
’Til my uttermost borderlands knew them —
  The least of the world and the best.

They came with the wisdom of sages,
  The darkness, the stain and the dirt,
They came with the glory of ages,
  And I took them — my hope and my hurt.

I have gathered the breed of all nations,
  Drawn from each caste and each clan;
Tried them and proved them and loved them
  And made them American.

Made them a nation of Builders,
  Fearless and faithful and free,
Entered them, passed them and raised them
  To the Master’s Sublime Degree.

Theirs is the task of restoring
  The Ancient and Honored Guild —
The work to the Speculative,
  The spirit to those who build.

’Til none shall be less than a Master,
  And know but one Ruler above,
Bound by the spirit of justice
  And the mortar of brotherly love.

’Til the house shall belong to the Workman
  And the Craft come again to its own;
And this is your task, oh, my people!
  Through you will the Lost Word be known.

The Masonic Service Association of North America