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The Adventures of Timothy Peacock, Esquire; or, Freemasonry Practically Illustrated
Daniel P. Thompson
"Help, muse, this once, we do implore, And we will trouble thee no more." Hudibras improved.
It was a pleasant autumnal morning, and the sun shone warmly and brightly down into that stupendous chasm of the Highlands, through which the majestic Hudson is forever rolling his vast column of pure and uncontaminated waters, the accumulated tribute of a thousand hills, to cool and freshen the turbid bosom of the briny ocean. On the deck of a sloop moored at a landing near this picturesqe spot two men were now to be seen sitting, like tailors, with something between them on which they appeared to be intensely employed; while the sounds of axes on shore, and the appearance of several men throwing wood towards the vessel, denoted that she had hauled up at this place to take in a quantity of that article, and that all the crew, except the two persons just mentioned, were now engaged on shore for that purpose. Of these two last named personages, one was a dumpy looking fellow of the apparent age of about thirty-five, with red hair and a freckled face. The other was evidently much younger, tall and well formed in his person. His hair and eyes were black; and indeed he was every way as remarkable for his fine, as his companion for his insignificant, appearance. After they had been thus busily engaged awhile the younger one, suddenly springing on to his legs, bounded several feet from the deck, snapping his fingers and exclaiming, "Nine hundred and forty-four odd dollars! O thunder and bombs! O lightning! two lightnings! O Jupiter and Jeremiah! Nine hundred and forty-four odd dollars! What shall we do with it all? Upon my sequacity I did not dream there was so much. O Nebuchadnezzar and the rest of the patriarchs, what a tornado of effulgent fortune has befel us! Hurra! Huzza! kick over the chairs—raise Ned, and break things!" `Come, come, Tim,' said the other, who, though partaking largely in the raptures of his friend, seemed less enthusiastic in the manner of expressing them, `come, Tim, you are out of your senses. They will observe you on shore, if you crack and crow at this rate. Come, sit down again, and let us divide this windfall according to agreement; and then we will talk over other matters.' The parties were soon again seated with the glittering heap between them, and with a sort of suppressed chuckling, and eyes beaming with exultation and delight, proceeded to the task of dividing the booty. This pleasing employment was at length satisfactorily completed; and each one gathered up his portion, and, carefully tying it up in an extra cravat, deposited it in his bundle.
"Now, brother Timothy," said the elder, "what do you propose to drive at by way of laying out your money? I believe," he continued without waiting for a reply, "I believe I shall go directly home and pay off the mortgage on my place. I shall have money enough now to square off every thing to the last cent, and have some odd change left, I guess. Gemini! who would have thought of such thumping luck! By George! I'll get the old woman a bran-fir'd new calico at Albany, and the boys a bushel of fishhooks. Lord! how the little devils will grin and snap their eyes when I get home!—and the old woman—Tim, I kinder like the old creature, after all, if she does raise a clatter about masonry once in a while.—But as I was saying, what are you going to do?"
`Why, as to myself, brother Jenks,' replied Timothy, `I have been thinking that I should make some tarryfication at Albany; and, if I can get in with the brethren there, I shall take the higher degrees of masonry, and perhaps attend to the great study of the forty-seven Euclids, mentioned in our lectures.'
"You are right, brother Timothy," said the other, "you have now the lucre to enable you to perfect yourself in the great and noble art of masonry; and I advise you by all manner of means to attend to it. I have a masonic friend at Albany who will introduce you into his lodge. If I had your gifts, Timothy, I would be a great man. When I proposed to you to join me in this expedition to New York, I knew what your appearance and gifts of speech would do. I can contrive as well as the fattest of them, but hang me, if I can argue. You see how cutely I planned out this show business of Boaz which has lined our pockets so handsomely. And for all that you remember how they all always seemed to look and listen to you to explain and expound matters—and how all the ladies gathered round you, while me, the main-spring of the whole, they would scarcely notice at all. It makes me mad when I think of it. But blast 'em, I have now got pretty well paid for bearing their treatment this time; for mean and insignificant as they appeared to think me, I had wit enough, it seems, to Tom-fool the whole posse of 'em there in New-York, big-bugs and all. But as to you, there is some encouragement for you to advance in Masonry. You can stay a few months in Albany, perfect yourself in all the lower degrees, and take all the higher. And when you have done this I have no doubt you will be one of the brightest Masons in all America. You can then travel where you please and get a good living by lecturing to the lodges about the country. Your fortune will then be made, and then you will be a great man, Timothy."
`That is precisely the plan,' rejoined our hero, as he pulled up his cravat in the dignified consciousness of meriting his companion's encomiums, `that is precisely the plan I ramified and co-operated for myself before I left home, provided we should meet with that indelible success in the exhibition of Boaz which we hoped and prophetized, and which has now, bating the poor animals' abolishment, transpired and expanded to a certain occurment.'
"Ah! poor Boaz! said Jenks mournfully, "How sorry I am that we could not have got him away alive! what a noble fellow for a bear he was, Timothy! and how bravely he died!"
`Yes,' observed the other with kindling enthusiasm, `Yes, as I looked on with the most indignant admiration, and saw them expunging the life of the poor fellow, I thought of Cæsar who was killed and assassinated in the senate by Brutus and a concatenation of others, and who only had time to look Brutus in the face and say, tu Brute , which meant, I suppose, too much of a brute, and this I take it was the reason why the murderer was called Brutus. But why I similified the two cases was because Boaz was also assassinated by brutes, like Cæsar. And I opinionate likewise the death of Boaz resembles the way and manner, that we read some of our ancient brethren were put to the torture and rack—those two machines that they used to bind and murder Masons upon, to get their secrets in the days of poperarity.'
"That is very true," rejoined Jenks, "and, like those old martyrs, Boaz may be considered as dying for the cause of masonry, since he was the means of helping us to money which you are agoing to lay out in studying, and of course in extending the knowledge of the art; and if you should become a great Mason, Timothy, by means of the money he brought you, he will have been a great benefit to our order, and ought to have a monument, like those old heroes and martyrs, erected to his memory. I wish you would write a pair of verses about him, Timothy—same as if they were going to be put on a grave-stone,— epitaphs I think they call them."
`My mind,' replied Timothy, in answer to this request or proposition of his friend, `my mind was never much diverged towards rhymetry, but we may as well have our time amplified, on our voyage, in writing something for the glorification of his memory, as in any other way, since we have but little else to procrastinate our leisure employment. '
The crew now coming on board and beginning to take in their wood, this interesting discussion upon the character of Boaz, and on the propriety of composing an elegiac tribute to his memory, was of course suspended. In a short time, however, the wood was taken in—all the business for which the vessel had moored was completed, and she was again put before the wind and proceeded slowly on her voyage. After indulging awhile in viewing the magnificent and diversified scenery that opened in beauty and grandeur on either side of them as they wound their way along the bends of this noble and picturesque river, our friends began to bethink them of the task which they lately had under consideration, that of honoring the lamented Boaz with an epitaph. They accordingly borrowed pen, ink and paper of the captain, and going to a retired part of the deck, fitted or piled up some square boxes of freight so that they very well answered the double purpose of seats and writing desk. Here, being again by themselves, they resumed the discussion of the subject.
"Now, as I told you, Brother Jenks," observed Timothy, as he spread a sheet of white paper before him, and held the pen in his hand shaking out its superfluity of ink, "now as I told you, I comprehend the art of poetification but badly. I have often tried, but I never could make more than one line of rhyming in my life without confuscating my sentiments or debasing the sublimity of my language. And I should rather prefer concocting an oration instead of making a rhymified curtailment on this grievous occasion."
`I still think,' said Jenks, firmly persisting in his opinion, `that a pair of verses would be much more fitting for an epitaph. If you cannot do it yourself, perhaps we both could by putting our heads together. Now suppose you write the first two lines, and kinder give a pitch to it; and I guess I can think up two more to match them, and so make it rhyme,—what say you?'
"I will make the endeavor of a beginning," replied our hero, "If you really think that the most feasible designment."
`But is there not some rule,' asked the other, `for making verses? I conclude all the lines have to be of a particular length: For unless we know how long each one is to be, how can we get the others right?'
"To be sure," replied the other, "I have somewhere read the rules of making rhymetry—I think it was Blair's Lecturizing, or some other great work on the decomposition of language; and I believe the length of the lines is reckoned by feet"—
`Inches, more like!' interrupted Jenks—`who on earth ever heard of a line of poetry two or three feet long?'
"Why, I don't exactly understand it myself," said Timothy, somewhat puzzled how to get along with the question, "but still I am very explicit that the book said feet, and did not, as I commemorate, mention inches at all. I don't know that I can explanitate the business very discriminately myself. Yet I suppose these feet are not so long as common feet—probably not longer than inches, as you opinionate. But one thing I am certain and conclusive about, and that is, that all the lines must be measured."
`Well then,' said Jenks, `we wont puzzle our brains any more on that point, but measure for ourselves. So you may write off a couple of lines of about a proper length, and I will try to mate them in due order and proportion.'
Our hero now took his pen, and wrote a caption; and, then, after thinking awhile, now putting his pen almost to the paper, now taking it suddenly back to relapse into musing again, and exhibiting sundry other of the usual symptoms and sufferings of mental parturition, he at length dashed off two whole lines without the least pause or hesitation, and handed them over to his companion, whose more mechanical genius, it was expected, would enable him to match them with alternate rhyme. Jenks was for proceeding to business in proper form, and doing every thing in a workmanlike manner. He accordingly took the paper and first laid it squarely before him. After this was adjusted, he thrust his hands into his breeches' pocket, and drew out a little folded box-wood rule, which, as he said, being somewhat of a joiner, he always carried about with him. He then took the exact measure of the length of the two lines which Timothy had written, in inches, fourths, eighths, &c., agreeably to the rule which his literary friend had suggested. Having ascertained the measure in this manner, he next took a separate piece of paper, and pricking off a corresponding space, drew two perpendiculars for boundaries on the right and left, so that he might write his lines horizontally and at right angles between them, and have their required length indicated without the trouble of repeated measurement to find when he had got them of the right length. Having thus hit on a satisfactory plan for preserving the measure which his friend had adopted, he then read the lines that were to be mated, and, humming over the closing or final words of each, put his brains to the task to get two others of corresponding sound to make the rhyme. These he had the good fortune to hit upon without much trouble, and having done so, he carefully placed them close against the right perpendicular, for the final or rhyming words of the two lines which were to constitute his part of the performance. Nothing now remained but the less important task of finding sentiment and words to fill up the lines. And this, after running over the words in the two lines of Timothy awhile to get the jog of them, as he expressed it, he very soon and very happily effected; and then, with much self-gratulation, transcribed and placed them exactly under Timothy's lines in their order, thus completing one verse of their undertaking to the mutual satisfaction of the parties. Another verse was then begun and finished in the same manner; and thus they proceeded through five entire verses, which brought them to the conclusion of their performance. This notable production of partnership poetry I have most fortunately been enabled to obtain; and to remove all doubts of its genuineness I can assure the reader that I now have it before me in the original hand writing, and on the same piece of paper on which it was first written. I shall make no apologies in offering it entire, believing that my masonic readers at least will be capable of justly appreciating its merits, and concur with me in considering it a morceau of genius too precious to be lost. It is as follows:
AN EPITAPH ON A FOUR-FOOTED BROTHER. Here lies the poor Boaz, our dogmatized brother, Most potently skill'd at the grip or the token; And yet all his Masonry proved but a bother— He made signs of distress, but his guts were ripp'd open. Like Sampson he fell on the loss of his hair, But the arches of glory bent o'er him in falling— For the Philistine dogs by the dozen were there, By the help of his jaw-bone laid kicking and sprawling. Like the Templars of yore he died for the cause, And ne'er flinch'd till his frontier exposures were riven— But I guess he's at rest, now sucking his claws, For the crows were last seen with him going towards heaven. And he there, bidding sun, moon, and lesser lights, hail! Aye shall stand by his great brother Bear in the stars— And snarl at the lion—snap off the ram's tail, And fight the old dog-star like thunder and mars. Let masonic pig-asses in tempests of rhyme, Then trumpet his honors from ocean to sea— And the curse be decreed, on account of this crime, That no dog shall hereafter a freemason be.
Such the chaste, classical and elegant offspring of the masonic muse as invoked by the combined efforts of our two friends in behalf of the memory and virtues of their lamented brother, Boaz! It perhaps were needless to attempt its praise, or to say how much it resembles, in beauty and pathos, many of those much admired songs and odes, which through the consenting judgment of ages, are now found gracing the pages of the Book of Constitutions. I have been particular in describing the original mode of versification which the writers of this unique and inimitable production here adopted, in the construction of their rhymes, in order to give modern rhymers, especially the ode-makers of the masonic household, the benefit of the improvement. They will not fail, I think, to see at once its advantages, and avail themselves of the system accordingly. Some may perhaps say that this system is liable to objection, as having a greater tendency than the old one to lead those adopting it to sacrifice the sense to the rhyme. But in answer to this I would say, that I believe there is little danger of making matters much worse in this respect than they always have been among even the most celebrated rhymers: For some of the most approved of these, it would seem, have considered, with the humorous author of the work from which I have quoted at the beginning of this chapter, that "Rhyme the rudder is of verses,"— which implies that the rhyme must govern, whatever shall become of the sense or sentiment. We learn from one of the annotators of Pope, in one of the first editions of his works published after his death, that the great poet finished and sent to the press the copy of his "Essay on Man," with those well known introductory lines proposing as they now read to "Expatiate free on all this scene of man, A mighty maze, but not without a plan!" written in the following manner: "Expatiate free o'er all this scene of man, A mighty maze, and all without a plan!" But on being told by a judicious literary friend that the whole treatise went directly to contradict this proposition which he had laid down as the foundation of his work, all going to prove a great and connected plan in all the operations of the Deity, he, with a most accommodating spirit, took his pen and altered the last line of the couplet as it now stands,
"A mighty maze, but not without a plan!"
Thus transforming himself from an atheist, a believer in chance, and a want of any fixed order in the works of creation, as the line, as he first had it would imply, into a consistent believer in the settled and determinate plans of providence, and all this too, as one would judge, only because he luckily hit on another phrase that would effect the change without injuring the rhyme! If the consideration of rhyme then could thus influence the great and acknowledged model and father of versification, what may not be expected from the children? Alas then for those who depend, for moral or ethical guides, on the maxims and precepts of rhyming philosophers!
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Last modified: March 22, 2014