Wednesday, January 02, 2019
There's a wonderful poem written by Oliver Wendall Holmes Sr. (not the Supreme Court Justice) from back at the beginning of the Golden Age of Fraternalism, when every American man would join a whole clot of fraternal groups. It was also an age when every educated man and woman considered themselves to be poets, and went on to attempt to prove it, with varying levels of successes and failures. Kentucky Past Grand Master Rob Morris, for instance, became known as American Freemasonry's poet laureate, not necessarily because his poems were all outstanding. but because he wrote a truckload of them.
This one in particular was penned by Oliver W. Holmes in 1859 for the 30th reunion of his Harvard University graduating class of 1829. If ever you encounter a critic of our fraternity who demands to know why we don't openly welcome women into our lodges as fellow Masons, explain that, with all of the various demands for 'safe spaces' going around these days, men demand and are entitled to such safe havens, too, thank you very much. With neither reproach nor apology.
Then have them read Holmes' poem:
HAS there any old fellow got mixed with the boys?
If there has, take him out, without making a noise.
Hang the Almanac's cheat and the Catalogue's spite!
Old Time is a liar! We're twenty to-night!
We're twenty! We're twenty! Who says we are more?
He's tipsy,-- young jackanapes!-- show him the door!
"Gray temples at twenty?"-- Yes ! white if we please;
Where the snow-flakes fall thickest there's nothing can freeze!
Was it snowing I spoke of? Excuse the mistake!
Look close,-- you will see not a sign of a flake!
We want some new garlands for those we have shed,--
And these are white roses in place of the red.
We've a trick, we young fellows, you may have been told,
Of talking (in public) as if we were old:--
That boy we call "Doctor," and this we call "Judge;"
It's a neat little fiction,-- of course it's all fudge.
That fellow's the "Speaker,"-- the one on the right;
"Mr. Mayor," my young one, how are you to-night?
That's our "Member of Congress," we say when we chaff;
There's the "Reverend" What's his name?-- don't make me laugh.
That boy with the grave mathematical look
Made believe he had written a wonderful book,
And the ROYAL SOCIETY thought it was true!
So they chose him right in; a good joke it was, too!
There's a boy, we pretend, with a three-decker brain,
That could harness a team with a logical chain;
When he spoke for our manhood in syllabled fire,
We called him "The Justice," but now he's "The Squire."
And there's a nice youngster of excellent pith,--
Fate tried to conceal him by naming him Smith;
But he shouted a song for the brave and the free,
Just read on his medal, "My country," "of thee!"
You hear that boy laughing?-- You think he's all fun;
But the angels laugh, too, at the good he has done;
The children laugh loud as they troop to his call,
And the poor man that knows him laughs loudest of all!
Yes, we're boys, --always playing with tongue or with pen,--
And I sometimes have asked,-- Shall we ever be men?
Shall we always be youthful, and laughing, and gay,
Till the last dear companion drops smiling away?
Then here's to our boyhood, its gold and its gray!
The stars of its winter, the dews of its May!
And when we have done with our life-lasting toys,
Dear Father, take care of thy children, THE BOYS!