by William Harvey J.P.
Dedicated to every merry Mason who has passed from Labour to Refreshment on
Saint Andrew's Day
In Scotland there's a strong belief, That Masons wi' the deil are chief, An' that their Points an' Circles spell Some awfu' mystery o' Hell ; Douce ministers of a' the kirks Regard the Craft as fou o' quirks An' say the Mallet, Square an' Level Are tradesmarks of a wily Devil.Why sic-like thochts sud be, I doubt Wad beat man's wisdom to find out. Aiblins they rase in times land past When witches wove their spells, an' cast The evil-e'e owre sheep an' kye, An' garred them a' gang yeld or dry ; Or rade on broomcowes through the air, Or threw themselves in shape o' hare, An met at midnight hour to pree The deepest drauchts o' devilry, An' sneck young bairns across the wizen, Or droun puir sailors by the dizzen. Through nane could tell how Auld Mahoun Begood the Craft, the news gaed roun' That he was Maister, an' the Ludge - As far as ministers could judge - Was whaur, wi' mystic sign an' word, He banned the Kirk and cursed the Lord. Sometimes some chield o' generous mood Wad praise the ancient Brotherhood, Maintain they placed their faith in prayer, An' strave to act upon the Square, But Cowans swore the thing was haivers, That God's Guid Beuk was torn to taivers, An' that when Clootie g'ied the nod, Nae Mason cared for man or God. Now, droll as it may seem, the Craft, Though whyles abused an' often chaffed, Held oon its road, no carin' ocht What livin' moral threiped or thocht. Its mind was free, its conscience clear, An' what was dune a' men micht hear When, wi' the portal closely tyled, The Brethren frae their records wyled Rules for the guidin' o' the race - That peace to war sud ne'er gie place - Thus workin' out the Mason's plan - A noble brotherhood of man, Wi' little care an' less o' evil, An' nae hobnobbin' wi' the Deevil. Indeed, how slender is the shaft Connecting' Nickie wi' the Craft A' men may learn by this narration O' what cam' owre a merry Mason - The Tyler o' Ludge Royal Bracken, Kent far an' near as Jeems M'Cracken. 'Twas ae fine munelicht Hallowe'en - That time when witches tak the green, An' warlocks work their cantraips dire An' faires flee on feet o' fire, An' water kelpies prowl at large, An' Nickie gies his angels chairge Of a' that chance to be abroad When midnight mak's an eerie road An' ilka shadow shields a ghaist, An' fouk imagine they are chased An' pass the kirkyard gate wi' speed For fear some fiend sud gar the deid RISE frae their graves an' shak their shroud That Jeems M'Cracken, flegged an' cowed, Crap trummlin' hame an tauld Tam Paton What passed atween him an' Auld Satan. This nicht his Mother Ludge had gathered To see a dorbie duly "brithered," And owre a foundin' pint explain How best to lay the Corner Stane. Wi' baps and beer, an' toast an' sang, The time sped cantily alang; The knok gaed birlin' round to twa Ere ony thoucht to slip awa', An' the wee hand was close on three When the last rites o' Masonry Saw Jamie start to stoiter hame Wi' bizzin' heid an' riftin' wame. As ower the road, athort the muir, Free frae a' wardly thocht an' care, Jeems stappit out, the setting' mune That lichted up the lift abune, An' a' the starns frae east to west Seemed in a blinkin' to owrecast, The sky grew dull an' dark as death An' Jamie (haudin' in his breath When something gae an awfu' sneeze) Drappit in fear upon his knees, Prayed a' the prayers that he could mind, Then keekit nervously behind, Syne looked afore, an' gie a squeel, For there (God help him) stude the Deil! - The Deil wi' een like coal o' fire! Wi' horns that well micht dreid inspire! Wi' chafts that girned, an' beard that shook An' smelt a' owre o' aizle smook! Wi' tail twa ells lang, at the least, Outrangin that of ony beast, An' cled in black frae tap to tae! Wi' fear puir Jeems grew cauld an' blae. "Guid mornin', Brither," quo' the deil, "I houp, guid Sir, I see you weel?" The speech brocht Jamie's courage back. "Godsake," thinks he, "I'll hae a crack Wi' this black billie, an' mak sure Just what he kens aboot the Square. I'll probe the haill thing to the boddam An' of it's sae that I can snod 'im I'll maybe end that daft-like plaister Which says the rascal is our Maister." "Guid mornin', friend," then Jamie said Cockin' some cannily his head, "Sin' you mak free to ca' me Brither, Juist tell me now, how auld's your Mither?" "My Mither!" leuch the Deil, "I' faith, As sure as breeks are made o' claith, Or apples grew on trees in Eden, An' you on baps an' beer were feedin', I wad hae sworn that you had raither Been seeking news about your faither." "A, sir," quo' Jeems, "thats prief I'll swear, That you were never on the Square, Or my fair question you'd hae kent An' seen at aince juist what I meant, An' gien yours Mither's age aff-reel, I'm doubtin' you're nae Mason, Deil." "Ca canny there, ca' canny noo, You're no sae donnert though you're fou, An' weel you ken that I can shaw That I'm the Faither o' you a'! I'll wad a guinea to a groat The Scottish Kirk has banned the lot O' you as sinfu' sons o' mine What learned the ga' o' Rule an' Line An' a' your secret pairts frae me Wha first invented Masonry." "A' lees," cried Jeems; " A' lees an' waur, We take nae notice o' the glaur That ministers and elders baith Have splairged on us. I'll tak my aith That what they sae is but a fable. Guid guide us! frae God's beuk I'm able To prove to a' wi' een to see You hadn'a haen the First Degree, Or, by the Mallet an' the Level, You'd never hae taen your job as Devil!" "Ne'er taen my job!" an' Clootie hotched, "Man, sin' you've that sair subject broached, As sure as three times twa mak sax I'm up in a' your Mason knacks - Fand the haill dollop up in heaven, Ken a' about Three, Five an' Seven : The Three that rule a Ludge; the Five That haud a Ludge, an' mak it thrive, The Seven that guide in on the plane Whaur Wisdom, Strength, an' Beauty reign ; The Ark, the Anchor, an' the Bell, I ken them a'! The Parallel That Moses made wi' Solomon Is now, I think, made wi' Saint John. Sirs me! What mystical appears I've kent aff-loof, five thousand years!" "Ay, ay" said Jeems, "it sets you weel - God knows, you are a clever Deil - Thus glibly to say twa-three phrases, (An a' the time sing your ain praises!) Nae doubt, afore your wild rampage You used the Gavel an' the Gauge, But, still an' on, your Mason lore You maun hae left ahent the door That day you got the unco shove That dang you frae Grand Ludge above. Now Sawtan, sin' that time o' terror, I wonder if you've seen your erro, An' if sometime you green to enter A Lodge that opened on the Centre?" "Weel, Jeems, atween oursels, I'll granr That whyles I feel a kind o' want, But, heth, I'm dour as you may guess - An' thrawn as you'd be - to confess The sin that drave me doun to dwell Amon' the fallen saunt o' Hell, But noos an' thans I tak a thoucht Of a' the tirr-wirr I have wrocht, An' muse on Mallet, Square, an' Plumb Wi' Jubela an' Jubelum." "Thae balgyairds! They're weel het in Hell. Ise was, you've Jubelo as well? A trinity o' mansworn knaves Owre bad to rest within their graves, Nae fire ablow will purge their crime, They're dammed ayont the end o' time; I houp they're ladlin' lowin' coals Upon ilk other's luckless souls." "Deed then, they're no'," quo Nickie Ben, "We've punishments unknawn to men. They're biggin' temples ilka day Wi' meltin' lave - saft as clay, Frae plans that seem to them absurd Because they lack the Masons' Word! They're thirled to an uneven Skirrit - Fit emblem o' their want o' merit; Their Chisel, Compasses, an' Mell Are red-het as the fires o' hell; Their Plumb's a' squint, an's so's their Level They're free wi' aiths as ony Devil. But though wi' cursin' they grew hoarse, It's ne'er abune a single course Their wark wad heichten for the found Is laid on ever-shiftin' ground; Year in, year out, in endless pain, They cry, 'Wae's me! The Maister's slain.' " At Satan's word Jeems stude aghast. He thocht on a' his sins bypast, An' what micht happen to himself' If, sae be, he gaed doun to Hell. He looked in silence for a wee, "Then, Clootie, since you've nabbed that three," He wispered, "Tell me this, I pray, O' Masons, have you mony mae? Or dae they get, as they expect, A fair wind frae the Architect Wha dwells within the Heavenly Ludge An' hauds the balance as the Judge Of a' thats dune at kirk or market By mortals frae the time they're sarket?" "Weel, Jamie," said auld Satan quick-like, "I've Kaiser Bill, an' twa-three sic-like, Ill loons that dung the warld ajee By cursin' God an' servin' me, But as for ordinar brither chiels, They're no' the stuff that mak gude deils; They're faur too constant on the Square An' place their faith owre much in prayer. They guide their ways by Rule an' Plummet, An' thus gey aften reach the summit Whaur Virtue sits enthroned as Queen, An' Peace an' Honour crown the scene. But Jamie, though to say't I'm laith An' whisper it below my breath, You'll come straucht doun, baith soul' an body; If you keep on wi beer an toddy." That angered Jeems, "God damn your cheek," He cried, "It sets you ill to speak! For tuppence I was rive your beard An' see your horns as siccar ser'ed; Rug aff your tail an gar' you squeel You auld an ugsome unhung Deil!" An' with the words Jeems made a breenge. Lord keep me! What a michty cheenge! In less than naetime Nick was aff, While up there rase an eldritch laugh, And a' the hills and valleys round, Rocked wi' a maist uncanny sound. " An earthquake;" Jeems cried out in fear, "God keeps us a' when Sawtan's near." The Three Great Lichts Jeems whuppitt out Then, slyly keekin' round about, Drapped on his knees, an' breathed this prayer Owre Bible, Compases an' Square: "Though I may be the warst o' men, Lord! save me frae auld Nickie Ben! It's true afore him I was brave But I'll be moderate wi' the lave, Take nae mair liquor to excess But steively tyle the little press, An' be mair eident wi' the tools, Which mind us o' the Golden Rules That Temperance, Fortitude, an' Truth Improve the mind, subdue the drouth, An' daily thank You for each blessin' As lang's I'm spared to be a Mason."
Harvey. J.P. F.S.A. Scot.,