British Poets and Secret Societies by Marie Roberts

By Marie Roberts

A unusually huge variety of English poets have both belonged to a mystery society, or been strongly stimulated by way of its tenets. the most effective identified examples is Christopher Smart’s club of the Freemasons, and the ensuing impact of Masonic doctrines on A tune to David. besides the fact that, many different poets have belonged to, or been prompted by way of not just the Freemasons, however the Rosicrucians, Gormogons and Hell-Fire golf equipment. First released in 1986, this learn concentrates on 5 significant examples: shrewdpermanent, Burns, William Blake, William Butler Yeats and Rudyard Kipling, in addition to a couple of different poets. Marie Roberts questions why such a lot of poets were powerfully interested in the key societies, and considers the effectiveness of poetry as a medium for conveying mystery trademarks and formality. She exhibits how a few poets believed that poetry may turn out a hidden symbolic language during which to bare nice truths.

The ideals of those poets are as various as their perform, and this booklet sheds attention-grabbing gentle on a number of significant writers.

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FOR I pray the Lord JESUS that cured the LUNATICK to be merciful to all my brethren and sisters in these houses .... For they work me with their harping-irons, which is a barbarous instrument, because I am more unguarded than others. (B, 123-4) Smart recorded his experiences in the Jubi/ate Agno which can be described as a panoramic compilation of ideas pirated from scriptural, Masonic, and mystical traditions. 9 The poem was never published during his life-time. 1 0 The preservation of the autograph manuscript had been due to the madness of another poet, William Cowper.

XXXI) The name of the first pillar, alpha, bears a physical resemblance to the compass which Masons believed was used by the Great Architect to divide the day from the night. Through this imagery Smart draws a parallel between the creation of light and the initiation of a candidate into the first degree of Freemasonry who will be "first/In station". 8l After this, he is blindfolded and led into the lodge room by a noose or cable-tow. The candidate is then asked what he is seeking and his reply to this question is "light".

Freemasonry may have indulged Smart's idiosyncracies but it could never have contained them indefinitely. Through his poetry he conveys a sense of pride in his Masonic membership which rested upon his conviction that "A MASON is great and respected". Indeed, he would have derived consolation from the craft while undergoing the indignities of his confinement. Smart was suffering from attacks of acute melancholia which resulted in mental disorientation and then violent paroxysms. According to W. 1 5 Smart would have regarded his Masonic lodge as a drinking club since the consumption of alcohol had been sanctioned by the Freemasons as an expression of fraternal conviviality.

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