[Square & Compasses]

Masonic toasts, etc.

Date: Wed, 01 Apr 1998 17:03:12 -0700
From: Hugh Young 
Reply-To: hugh@canadamail.com
To: hugh young 
Subject: One More Time Please! (Vol III # 4)


ONE MORE TIME, PLEASE!                                 Vol III, No. 4
Circulation ---> 430                                                
April 1998
This month we visit England for a look at the Social side of the Craft.

This article is contained in Volume 12 of "The British Masonic
Miscellany", compiled by George M. Martin, PM, SC, Masonic Temple, 31
South Tay Street, Dundee and published by David Winter and Son of the
same City in Scotland.  I do not have the date of the publication.

I trust that you enjoy it.

As always, should you wish to cease receiving this ezine, change your
Email address or wish to add a name (after the recipient has agreed) --
just Email me and it will be done.

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Best Fraternal Regards

Hugh Young
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Masonic Convivialities

John Thorp

Some years ago, Bro. J.J.W.  Knowles, a Past Master of the Lodge of
Research, in a Paper read before the Members, dealt in some measure with
the subject of Lodge refreshments, tracing the custom back to the time
of the mediaeval Gilds.  It is my desire to deal with the later phases
of the same subject, more especially in connection with the Grand Lodge
of England, and with the Lodges under its jurisdiction and authority.

The custom among the various Trade Gilds of celebrating with a Feast
their Annual Meetings, seems to have been widespread and continuous.
Toulmin-Smith refers to the custom thus ("English Gilds, Intro, p.
xxxiii) ... "One day at least in the year, usually the day of the Saint
to which the Gild, if it had a Saint's name, was dedicated, was more
especially devoted than the others to festivities;... it was then that
the brethren and sistren being all assembled, gave their alms, and
feasted together, for `the nourishing of brotherly love.' "

Indeed one authority traces the feast further back still, even to the
Druids "who were the only Priests among the ancient Britons.  In their
Solemnities they were Clothed in White; and their Ceremonies always
ended with a good Feast. ("A Defence of Masonry" in "Book of
Constitutions, 1738 edit., p.221)

Whether the Brotherhood of Masons originated with the old Druids as some
have affirmed, or sprang from the mediaeval Gilds, which is much more
probable, is a question that I cannot now stay to consider, but the fact
remains, that the earliest records of the existence of masons as a
SPECULATIVE Society, refer to the custom of feasting at their meetings.

Thus Dr. Plot in writing of the Masons of his day (1686), says ... "when
any are admitted, they call a meeting (or Lodg as they term it in some
places)... and entertain with a collation according to the Custom of the
place: This ended, they proceed to the admission of them" (The Natural
History of Staffordshire, p.316)

In Ashmole's Diary also there occurs the following passage, in the
account of a Lodge Meeting he attended in London in 1682 ... "We all
dined a the Half-Moon Tavern in Cheapside, at a noble Dinner prepared at
the Charge of the new accepted Masons."

We are justified in assuming, therefore, that from very early times a
Feast formed a part, in some cases no doubt a very important part, of
the proceeding at the periodical Assemblies of the Masons.

Of what refreshments consisted in these early times, we have now very
little means of judging.  The fare varied probably, according to the
position and wealth of the members, from the "noble dinner" of Ashmole,
to the humble bread and cheese supper, followed in one case by post wine
and rum-punch, and in the other by ale, brandy, and pipes.

It is quite probable that the custom originally arose in a veritable
necessity, for doubtless many members of the early Lodges came
considerable distances, on horse-back or on foot, to attend the
meetings, and it was an absolute necessity that they should be provided
with some refreshment on their arrival and before setting out on their
return journey.  The Junior Warden's "call-off" then was of practical
value and significance, and not as in later times very frequently a mere
symbolic allusion.

In Plot's time the Brethren seem to have partaken of their refreshment
before they entered upon their "work," and not as in our day after the
"work" was over, and curiously enough, this practice was continued in
the early days of the Grand Lodge of England.  Thus we read:

"Assembly and Feast at the said Place 24 June 1718.  Brother Sayer
having gather'd the Votes, after Dinner proclaim'd aloud our Brother
George Payne Esq., Grand Master of Masons."  And again "Assembly and
Feast at Stationers-Hall, 24 June 1721... After Grace said, they sat
down in antient Manner of Masons to a very elegant Feast, and dined with
Joy and Gladness.  After Dinner and Grace said," the Grand Master,
Deputy Grand Master and other officers were invested, an Oration was
delivered, and the Grand Master when all business was finished, ordered
the "Warden to close the Lodge in good time."

Indeed the following, which is included in the "Charges of a Freemason,"
in the first (1823) Book of Constitutions, is a clear indication that
the practice of partaking of a common meal was firmly established thus
early in the eighteenth century:-- "You may enjoy yourselves with
innocent Mirth, treating one another according to Ability, but avoiding
all Excess, or forcing any Brother to eat or drink beyond his
Inclination, or hindering him from going when his Occasions call him."

The custom of eating and drinking in connection with Masonic Meetings
seems to have continued without intermission, and the Annual Feast has
remained a permanent feature of Grand Lodge proceedings, right down to
the present time.  Much money was occasionally devoted to the
preparation of the Feast, for we read of "a very elegant Feast," "an
elegant and sumptuous Feast," and on one occasion of "a Grand Feast
indeed."  Sometimes, however, the Brethren seem to have feasted too
sumptuously, for on November 25th, 1723, it was resolved, that special
care be taken "to prevent Disturbance and preserve Harmony on Feast-
Days."  In more recent times, the arrangements for the Grand Lodge
Feast, have been carried out more or less satisfactorily, by a Board of
Grand Stewards, annually appointed by the Grand Master, on the
recommendation of the Red Apron Lodges.

This being the custom with the Grand Lodge of England, what more natural
tan that the Daughter Lodges, in their turn, should provide
entertainment for their members?  The history of every old Lodge
testifies to the universality of the practice.  Indeed in some cases
eating, drinking, and even smoking were indulged in during the work of
the Lodge.  Long tables were set out in the Lodge-rooms, at which the
Brethren seated themselves, and after the edibles had been consumed,
toast, sentiment, and song alternated with masonic work.

It is then very clear, that from earliest times the Masonic Fraternity
has been a "Social Brotherhood".  Much of the time spent in association
has been occupied in cultivating the social virtues, in forming and
cementing friendships, and in promoting good fellowship, all very
laudable objects.  The very fact that most of the early Lodges ...
indeed many at the present time - met or now meet at Taverns, Hotels,
and Inns, afforded every opportunity to the Brethren for this form of
enjoyment, or even offered inducements thereto.  From the history and
bye-laws of many old Lodges it is easy to see, how large a place the
pleasures of the table occupied in the Freemasonry of the past, and how
much of the contributions of the Brethren towards the funds of the
Lodge, was spent in refreshment "for the good of the house."  It was no
uncommon thing for ninepence out of every shilling paid int the box to
be so spent, and while some Lodges were without doubt ruined by the
prevailing custom, others were certainly prevented from becoming
extinct, by the Meetings being used by the members as a convenient
excuse for indulgence.

Into the origin of the old and wide-spread custom of "drinking toasts" I
cannot now enter, nor have I time to deal with the special subject of
"Masonic toasts", although I hope to take this up at a later date.
There is little doubt, however, that the practice of "drinking toasts"
after every :Lodge Meeting led among the Masons, as among other portions
of society, to the excessive drinking which was unfortunately almost
universal up to fifty years ago.

As early as 1719, Dr. Desaguliers, the Grand Master, immediately after
his Installation, "forthwith reviv'd the old regular and peculiar Toasts
or Healths of the Free Masons", and it was this practice which was
probably responsible for most of the heavy drinking after Lodge
Meetings, and the consequent degradation of many Freemasons in the days
gone by.

I am not condemning or asking you to discontinue the Lodge supper, the
annual banquet and the general practice of "proposing and honouring
Toasts" ... there is much in these customs which conduces to sociability
and good fellowship, and in some Lodges excellent speeches may
frequently be heard, when Brethren are proposing or acknowledging the
various Toasts; I am simply calling your attention to one phase of old
Masonic life, which presents itself very frequently and very forcibly to
all those who study the history of old eighteenth century Lodges.

At that time the customs, habits and language of the people, even of the
educated classes, were not those of the present day.  It was a time when
the excesses of the table were freely indulged in; to be in a state of
inebriation was not considered an offence against good manners, and the
social refinements of our times had not been attained. (Vide History of
the Lodge of Probity, p.74).  This being the practice in all classes of
the community, it is only natural that the Freemasons should follow the
universal custom.  They were not worse than others in their own station
of life, but probably better, and in our criticisms we must ever bear in
mind the present altered condition of things, and never seek to judge
our ancient Brethren by the standard of modern times.

Re-introduced then (in 1719), the "drinking of Toasts" soon became a
prominent feature of Masonic Meetings, so much so, that during the
singing of "The Master's Song" printed in the 1723 Book of
Constitutions, and reprinted in the recently issued volume of this
Lodge's Transactions, the singer interrupted no less than four times, in
order that the Brethren might drink the health, or to the memory, of
some Brother or Brethren.

In J. and B. (2nd Edit. 1762) we read, that "the Ceremony of drinking
healths among the Masons, takes up much of their time," and in many of
the old eighteenth century "exposures," there are whole pages full of
masonic toasts from which the presiding officer could select, and after
every one of which a bumper was drunk by the Brethren present.

Music and singing also occupied a very prominent position in the Masonic
Convivialities of the past.  In every eighteenth century Book of
Constitutions, of both Grand Lodges, in every Pocket Companion, there
was included a selection of Masonic Songs, while book after book was
issued from the press consisting exclusively of songs suitable ... or
supposed to be suitable, for Masonic gatherings, in many cases with the
Music thereto, and printed from engraved copper plates.

And what is the theme of all this Masonic verse?  High praise of the
Masonic craft; eulogies of Solomon, Hiram, Hiram Abif, Tubal Cain, the
reigning Grand Master, Royal Masons and other Masonic worthies, the
exaltation of the Masonic virtues and incentives to Charity and
Brotherly Love; all very excellent and praiseworthy.  But mixed up with
all this, there is the everlasting Toast, the constant call to honour
some person or some sentiment.  There are songs in praise of wine and
extolling the pleasures of the glass, full of references to "flowing
wine," "pure nectar," "the generous glass," "full bumpers," "swelling
cups," "the flowing bowl," "glasses charged full high," "a noble toast,"
"toast after toast."  There are injunctions to "charge your glasses
high," to "fill up the goblet,", to "crown the bowl and fill the glass,"
to "pour the rosy wine again," to "let the brisk bumper go merrily
round," and when a specially important Toast was proposed, there rang
out the command

"Charge, Brethren!  Charge your glasses to the top,
 My toast forbids the spilling of a drop."

And according to what we know of the eighteenth century customs among
Masons, this injunction was loyally obeyed.  Toast followed Toast the
evening through, the Brethren holding firmly to the belief that "the
bonds of friendship always tighten when they are wet."

Let me quote a few extracts from some of these Masonic songs, that we
may gauge the quality of the eighteenth-century Masonic Muse.

(From Cole's "Antient Constitutions", 1731)

Let malicious People censure;
They're not worth a Mason's answer.
	While we drink and sing,
	With no Conscience sting,
Let their evil Genius plague `em,
And for Mollies Devil take `em,
	We'll be free and merry,
	Drinking Port and Sherry,
Till the Stars at Midnight shine,
and our Eyes with them combine,
	The dark Night to banish;
	This we will replenish
	Nature, whilst the Glasses
	With the bottles passes:
		Brother Mason free,
		Here's to thee, to thee;
And let it, let it run the Table round,
While envy does the Masons Foes confound.

(From Cole's "Antient Constitutions", 1731)

As I at Wheeler's Lodge one Night
	Kept Bacchus company;
For Bacchus is a Mason bright,
	And of all Lodges free... free... free..

Said I, great Bacchus is adry,
	Pray give the God some Wine;
Jove in a Fury did reply,
	October's as divine... divine... divine.

It makes us Masons more compleat,
	Adds to our Fancy Wings,
Makes us as happy and as great
	As mighty Lords and Kings... Kings... Kings.

(From "A Master-Key to Free-Masonry", 1760)

Ye Brethern all,
Whom Freemasons men call,
Without care or strife,
In joy pass this life.
Be a full brimmer still,
Your defence `gainst all ill,
And the jovial glass fill,
To the health of all, Freemasons all,
We are Brethren, both great and small.

(From "A Defence of Masonry", 1765)

Charge, then, with Liquid Powder,
Each his sound-bottom'd Bumper;
	As to the King
	And Craft we sing,
It should be with a Thumper.

(From "The Free Masons Pocket Companion", Glasgow, 1771)

He that will not merry merry be,
With a generous bowl and a toast,
May he in Bridewell be shut up,
And fast bound to a post.
Let him be merry merry there,
And we'll be merry merry here;
For who can know where we shall go,
To be merry another year?

(From "The Free Masons Pocket Companion", Glasgow, 1771)

Pray don't sleep or thin,
But give us some drink,
for `faith I'm most plaguily dry,
	Wine chears up the soul,
	Then fill up the bowl,
For `ere long you all know we must die.

(From "The Free Masons Pocket Companion", Glasgow, 1771)

Then fill up the goblet, and deal it about;
Each brother will see it thrice twenty times out.
Our pleasures, as well as our labours, can tell,
How free-hearted Masons all mankind excell.

(From "A Selection of Masonic Songs", Dublin, 1802)

But when the glass goes round,
Then mirth and glee abound,
	We're all happy to a man;
We laugh a little, we drink a little,
We work a little, we play a little,
We sing a little, are merry a little,
	And swig the flowing can.

(From "A Selection of Masonic Songs", Dublin, 1802)

Hark the Hiram sounds to close,
	And we from work are free,
We'll drink and sing, and toast the King,
	And the Craft with a hearty three times three.

Hark, the Clock repeats high twelve,
	It can't strike more we all well know;
Then ring, ring, ring, ring the bell,
	For another bowl before we go.

Coming, coming, coming Sir, the waiter cries,
	With a bowl to drown our care,
We're a hearty set on the level met,
	And we always part on the square.

(From "A Selection of Masonic Songs", Dublin, 1802)

Then charge my dear Brethren, a bumper all round,
To the brim fill each glass, let no day-light be found;
Here's a health to all Masons who honour the name,
By walking upright, and observing the same.

(From Cole's "Antient Constitutions", 1731)

The World is all in Darkness,
About us they conjecture;
	But little think
	A Song and Drink
Succeeds the Masons' Lecture.

Then, Landlord, bring a Hogshead,
And in the Corner place it,
	Till it rebound
	With hollow Sound,
Each Mason here will face it.

	Fill to him,
	To the Brim;
Let it round the Table roll.
	The Divine
	Tells ye, Wine
Cheers the Body and the Soul.

(From "Ahiman Rezon", 1756)

Come, come my Brethren dear,
Now we're assembled here,
Exalt your Voices clear,
	With Harmony;
Here's none shall be admitted in,
Were he a Lord, a Duke, or King,
He's counted but an empty Thing,
	Except he's free.

Let ev'ry Man take Glass in Hand,
Drink Bumpers to our Master Grand,
As long as he can sit or stand,
	With Decency.

These extracts will amply suffice to show you the quality of the Masonic
verse which satisfied our Brethren of the older times.  What wonder,
that with all this incentive to excess, they occasionally indulged, not
wisely but too well, and that we find such entries in old minute-books
as this:-- "His worship retired about high time, and the members not
very early the next morning." (History of the Old Kings Arms Lodge,
p.68).  Or as this ... "The Brethren who attended this evening were very
quiet and peacable, and went home in good time; there was no supper."
(History of the Lodge of Probity, No. 61, p.101).

But time has changed all this, the Masonic Songs, from which I have
quoted, are happily forgotten, and the books containing them are now
only treasured as curiosities of literature, and interesting relics of
past generations of Masons.  Toasts, strictly limited in number, are
still proposed and honoured after Masonic meetings, while the habits of
the Fraternity will certainly compare favourably with those of any other
portion of English society.

Into the controversy which from time to time rages round the general
question of Lodge refreshment, I cannot now enter.  Each Lodge must be
the judge and decide its own practice, At the same time I am pleased to
think, that with the passing years, there is a constantly diminishing
number of Brethren, who become or remain members of the Masonic Craft,
simply and solely for the sake of the good things partaken of after the
closing of the Lodge.  This is good, but whilst we recognize, as an
undoubted fact, that a fair proportion of the Brethren rarely if ever,
remain for refreshment, we must take good care that the duty of
hospitality is never forgotten or neglected, but that every stranger
Brother who comes amongst us is heartily welcomed, and provided wit the
very best the Lodge has to offer.  It is not the proper use, but the
abuse of the good things provided, that is deserving of condemnation,
but with the due exercise of Temperance and Prudence, the social board
may become ... should indeed become ... a very useful, a very
interesting, a very legitimate, and even a very elevating portion of our
Masonic proceedings.  Let us all unite to make it such.


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