by ALBERT C. MACKEY M. D.
1390. The Regius Poem, sometimes called the Halliwell Manuscript, was written or copied from an older, unknown manuscript. This is the oldest extant copy of any ancient manuscript of Masonry
The earliest of the old Constitutions. It is in poetic form, and was probably transcribed in 1390 from an earlier copy.
The manuscript is in the
King's Library of the
What is said above by
Brother Hawkins of this early reference to the Craft does not exhibit as fully
as many may desire the peculiar features of the Hall Udell or Regius
Manuscript. The book is about four by five and a half inches, the writing being
on vellum, a fine parchment, and it was bound in its present cover, according
to Brother H. J. Whymper, about the year 1838. The cover bears the Royal Arms
stamped on both sides with G. R. II, and the date 1757. In that year the King,
George II, b an instrument that passed the Great Seal of England presented the
Library containing the volume to the
The writing is done in a neat but characteristic style of the earls period and in these modern days far from familiar to us, the English of that generation was also very different from that of our time. Brother Roderick H. Baxter, Past Master of Quatuor Coronati Lodge and Past President of the Manchester Association for Masonic Research, has carefully modernized the transcript and permitted us to make use of his valuable labors. Before giving the work of Brother Baxter we ma) submit a transcript of the first eight lines in which may be seen some of the difficulties met in turning such a manuscript into modern English.
Whose wol bothe wel rede
He may fynde wryte yn olde boke
Of grete lord s, and eke ladyysse,
That hade mony chyldryn y-fere, y- wisse;
And hade no rentys to fynde hem wyth,
Nowther yn towne, ny felde, ny fryth:
A counsel togeder they cowthe hem take,
To ordeyne for these chyldryn sake, . . .
In the following transcript Brother Baxter has adhered strictly to the phraseology of the original with all its vagaries of person, tense and mood, and has retained the peculiarities of double and sometimes even treble negatives, the only variation being in the substitution of modern words for those now obsolete. However, where the modern words at the ends of lines could not have been used to preserve the jingle of the verses the old words have been utilized with their present equivalents added in brackets so as to avoid the necessity or referring to a glossary. The Roman numerals on the right of the lines indicate the pages of the manuscript.
Hic incipiunt constituciones artis gemetriac cecundum Euclydem
Here begin the
constitutions of the art of Geometry according to
Whoever will both well read and look
He may find written in old book
Of great lords and also ladies,
That had many children together, y-wisse; (certainly)
And had no income to keep them with,
Neither in town nor field nor frith: (enclosed wood)
A council together they could them take,
To ordain for these children s sake
How they might best lead their life
Without great disease, care, and strife;
And most for the multitude that was coming
Of their children after their endings
They send them after great clerks,
To teach them then good works;
And pray we them, for our Lords sake,
To our children some work to make
That they might get their living thereby,
both well and honestly full securely.
In that time, through good geometry,
This honest craft of good masonry
Was ordained and made in this manner,
Counterfeited of these clerks together;
At these lords' prayers they counterfeited geometry,
And gave it the name of masonry,
For the most honest craft of all.
These lords' children thereto did fall
To learn of him the craft of geometry,
The which he made full curiously;
Through fathers' prayers and mothers' also,
This honest craft he put them to.
He that learned best, and was of honesty
And passed his fellows in curiosity,
If in that craft he did him pass
He should have more worship than the lasse. (less)
This great clerk's name was called
His name it spread full wonder wide.
Yet this great clerk more ordained he
To him that was higher in this degree,
That he should teach the simplest of wit
In that honest craft to be parfytte; (perfect)
And so each one shall teach the other,
And love together as sister and brother.
Furthermore yet that ordained he
Master called so should he be
So that he were most worshiped,
Then should he be so called:
glut masons should never one another call,
within the craft amongst them all,
Neither subject nor servant, my dear brother
Though he be not so perfect as is another;
Each shall call other fellows by cuthe, (friendship)
Because they come of ladies' birth
On this manner, through good wit of geometry,
began first the craft of masonry:
The clerk Euclid on this Wise it found,
This craft of geometry in Egypt land.
In Egypt he taught it full wide,
In divers lands on every side;
Many vears afterwards, I understand
Ere that the craft came into this land
This craft came into England, as I you say,
In time of good King Athelstane's day
He made then both hall and even bower,
And high temples of great honor,
To disport him in both day and night
And to worship his God with all his might.
This good lord loved this craft full well,
And purposed to strengthen it every
For divers faults that in the craft he found;
He sent about into the land V.
After all the masons of the craft,
To come to him full even straghfte, Straight)
For to amend these defaults all
By good counsel, if it might fall.
An assembly then he could let make
Of divers lords in their state,
Dukes, earls, and barons also,
Knights, squires and many mo, (more)
And the great burgesses of that city,
They were there all in their degree;
These were there each one algate, (always)
To ordain for these masons' estate,
There they sought by their wit,
How they might govern it: VI.
Fifteen articles they there sought,
And fifteen points there they wrought.
Hic Incipit articulus primus.
Here begins the first article.
The first article of this geometry:
The master mason must be full securely
Both steadfast, trusty and true,
It shall him never then rue:
find pay thy fellows after the cost,
As victuals goeth then, well thou woste: (knowest)
And pay them truly, upon thy fad, (faith)
What they deserven may; (may deserve)
And to their hire take no more,
But what that they may serve for;
And spare neither for love nor drede, (dread) VII.
Of neither parties to take no mede; (bribe)
Of lord nor fellow, whoever he be,
Of them thou take no manner of fee;
find as a judge stand upright,
And then thou dost to both good right,
And truly do this wheresoever thou gost, (goest)
Thy worship, thy profit, it shall be most.
The second article of good masonry,
As you must it here hear specially,
That every master, that is a mason,
Must be at the general congregation,
So that he it reasonably be told
Where that the assembly shall be holde; (held) VIII.
And to that assembly he must needs gon, (go)
Unless he have a reasonable skwsacyon, (excuse)
Or unless he be disobedient to that craft
Or with falsehood is over-raft, (overtaken)
Or else sickness hath him so strong,
That he may not come them among;
That is an excuse good and able,
To that assembly without fable.
The third article forsooth it is,
That the master takes to no Prentice,
Unless he have good assurance to dwell
Seven years with him, as I you tell,
His craft to learn, that is profitable; IX.
Within less he may not be able
To lords' profit, nor to his own
As you may know by good reason.
The fourth article this must be,
That the master him well besee,
That he no bondman Prentice make,
Nor for no covetousness do him take;
For the lord that he is bound to,
May fetch the Prentice wheresoever he go.
If in the lodge he were y-take, (taken)
Much disease it might there make,
And such ease it might befal,
That it might grieve some or all X.
For all the masons that be there
Will stand together all y-fere. (together)
If such one in that craft should dwell
Of divers dis-eases you might tell:
For more ease then, and of honesty
Take a 'prentice of higher degree.
By old time written I find
That the Prentice should be of gentle kind
And so sometime, great lords' blood
Took this geometry that is full good
The fifth article is very good,
So that the Prentice be of lawful blood
The master shall not, for no advantage
Make no Prentice that is outrage; (deformed)
It is to mean, as you may hear,
That he have his limbs whole all y-fere; (together)
To the craft it were great shame,
To make a halt man and a lame
For an imperfect man of such blood
Should do the craft but little good.
Thus you may know every one
The craft would have a mighty man;
A maimed man he hath no might
You must it know long ere night.
The sixth article you must not miss
That the master do the lord no prejudice
To take the lord for his Prentice,
As much as his fellows do, in all wise.
For in that craft they be full perfect,
So is not he, you must see it.
Also it were against good reason,
To take his hire as his fellows don. (do)
This same article in this case,
Judgeth his prentice to take less
Than his fellows, that be full perfect.
In divers matters, know requite it,
The masters may his 'prentice so inform,
That his hire may increase full soon,
And ere his tertm come to an end,
His hire may full well amend.
The seventh article that is now here
Full well will tell you all y-fere (together)
That no master for favour nor dread
Shall no thief neither clothe nor feed.
Thieves he shall harbour never one,
Nor hint that hath killed a man
Nor the same that hath a feeble name
Lest it would turn the craft to shame.
The eighth article sheweth you so,
That the master may it well do.
If that he have any man of craft
And he be not so perfect as he ought,
He may him change soon anon,
And take for him a more perfect man.
Such a man through rechelaschepe, (recklessness)
Might do the craft scant worship.
The ninth article sheweth full well
That the master be both wise and felle(strong)
That he no work undertake,
Unless he ean both it end and make
And that it be to the lords' profit also, XV
And to his craft, wheresoever he go;
And that the ground be well y-take, (taken)
That it neither flaw nor grake. (crack)
The tenth article is fear to know,
Among the craft, to high and low,
There shall no master supplant another,
But be together as sister and brother,
In this curious craft, all and some,
That belongeth to a master mason.
Nor he shall not supplant no other man,
That hath taken a work him upon
In pain thereof that is so strong, XVI.
That weigheth no less than ten ponge, (pounds)
But if that he be guilty found,
That took first the work on hand;
For no man in masonry
Shall not supplant other securely,
But if that it be so wrought,
That in turn the work to nought;
Then may a mason that work crave,
To the lords' profit for it to save
In such a ease if it do fall,
There shall no mason meddle withal.
Forsooth he that beginneth the ground,
If he be a mason good and sound,
He hath it securely in his mind
To bring the work to full good end.
The eleventh article I tell thee,
That he is both fair and free;
For he teacheth, by his might,
That no mason should work by night,
But if it be in practising of wit,
If that I could amend it.
The twelfth article is of high honesty
To every mason wheresoever he be,
He shall not his fellows' work deprave,
If that he will his honesty save
With honest words he it commend,
By the wit that God did thee send;
But it amend by all that thou may.
Between you both without nay. (doubt)
The thirteenth article, so God me save,
Is if that the master a Prentice have,
Entirely then that he him teach
And measurable points that he him reche, (tell)
That he the craft ably may conne, (know)
Wheresoever he go under the sun.
The fourteenth article by good reason,
Sheweth the master how he shall don; (do)
He shall no Prentice to him take, XIX.
Unless divers cares he have to make,
That he may within his term,
Of him divers points may learn.
The fifteenth article maketh an end,
For to the master he is a friend;
To teach him so, that for no man,
No false maintenance he take him upon,
Nor maintain his fellows in their sin,
For no good that he might win;
Nor no false oath suffer him to make,
For dread of their souls' sake,
Lest it would turn the craft to shame,
And himself to very much blame. XX
At this assembly were points ordained mo, (more)
Of great lords and masters also,
That who win know this craft and come to estate,
He must love wed God and holy church algate, (always)
And his master also that he is with,
Wheresoever he go in field or frythe, (enclosed wood)
And thy fellows thou love also,
For that thy craft win that thou do
The second point as I you say
That the mason work upon the work day,
As truly as he can or may, XXI
To deserve his hire for the holy-day,
And truly to labour on his deed,
Well deserve to have his mede. (reward)
The third point must be severele, (severely)
With the Prentice know it well,
His master's counsel he keep and close
And his fellows by his good purpose;
The privities of the chamber tell he no man,
Nor in the lodge whatsoever they don- (do)
Whatsoever thou hearest or seest them do,
Tell it no man wheresoever you go;
The counsel of hall, and even of bower, XXII.
Keep it well to great honour
Lest it would turn thyself to blame,
And bring the craft into great shame.
The fourth point teacheth us alse, (also)
That no man to his craft be false;
Error he shall maintain none
Against the craft, but let it gone; (go)
Nor no prejudice he shall not do
To his master, nor his fellow also;
And though the Prentice be under awe
Yet he would have the same law.
The fifth point is without nay, (doubt)
That when the mason taketh his pay
Of the master, ordained to him,
Full meekly taken so must it byn; (be)
Yet must the master by good reason,
Warn him lawfully before noon,
If he will not occupy him no more
As he hath done there before;
Against this order he may not strive,
If he think well for to thrive.
The sixth point is full given to know,
Both to high and even to low, XXIV
For such case it might befall,
Among the masons some or all
Through envy or deadly hate,
Oft ariseth full great debate.
Then ought the mason if that he may,
Put them both under a day;
But loveday vet shall they make none
Till that the work-day be clean gone;
Upon the holy-day you must well take
Leisure enough loveday to make
Lest that Il would the work-day
Hinder their work for such a fray
To such end then that you them draw. XXV
That they stand well in God's law.
The seventh point he may well mean,
Of well long life that God us lene, (lend)
As it descrieth well openly,
Thou shalt not by thy master's wife lie,
Nor by thy fellows', in no manner wise,
Lest the craft would thee despise;
Nor by thy fellows' concubine,
No more thou wouldst he did by thine.
The pain thereof let it be sure,
That he be Prentice full seven year
If he forfeit in any of them
So chastised then must he been (be)
Full much care might there begin,
For such a foul deadly sin.
The eighth point, he may be sure,
If thou hast taken any cure,
Under thy master thou be true,
For that point thou shalt never rue;
A true mediator thou must needs be
To thy master, and thy fellows free;
Do truly all that thou might,
To both parties, and that is good right.
The ninth point we shall him call,
That he be steward of our hall,
If that you be in chambery-fere, (together)
Each one serve other with mild cheer;
Gentle fellows, you must it know,
For to be stewards all o-rowe, (in turn)
Week after week without doubt,
Stewards to be so all in turn about,
Amiably to serve each one other
As though they were sister and brother,
There shall never one another costage (cost)
Free himself to no advantage,
But every man shall be equally free
In that cost, so must it be
Look that thou pay well every man algate, (always)
That thou hast bought any victuals ate, (eaten)
That no craving be made to thee,
Nor to thy fellows in no degree,
To man or to woman, whoever he be
Pay them well and truly, for that will we:
Thereof on thy fellow true record thou take,
For that good pay as thou dost make,
Lest it would thy fellow shame,
And bring thyself into great blame.
Yet good accounts he must make
Of such goods as he hath y-take (taken)
Of thy fellows' goods that thou hast spende, (spent)
Where and how and to what end;
Such accounts thou must come to,
When thy fellows wish that thou do.X
The tenth point presenteth well good life,
To live without care and strife
For if the mason live amiss,
And in his work be false y-wisse, (I know)
And through such a false skewsasyon (excuse)
May slander his fellows without reason,
Through false slander of such fame.
May make the craft acquire blame.
If he do the craft such villainy
Do him no favour then securely,
Nor maintain not him in wicked life,
Lest it would turn to care and strife;
But yet him you shall not delayme, (delay)
Unless that you shall him constrain
For to appear wheresoever you will
Where that you will, loud or still;
To the next assembly you shall him call,
To appear before his fellows all,
And unless he will before them appear,
The craft he must need forswear;
He shall then be punished after the law
That was founded by old dawe. (day)
The eleventh point is of good discrction
As you must know by good reason
A mason, if he this craft well con, (know)
That seeth his fellow hew on a stone
And is in point to spoil that stone,
Amend it soon if that thou can
And teach him then it to amend
That the lords' work be not y-schende, (spoiled)
And teach him easily it to amend, .
With fair words, that God thee hath lender (lent)
For his sake that sit above
With sweet words nourish his love.
The twelfth point is of great royalty
There as the assembly held shall be
There shall be masters and fellows also,
And other great lords many mo- (more)
There shall be the sheriff of that country,
And also the mayor of that city,
Knights and squires there shall be
And also aldermen, as you shall see:
Such ordinance as they make there,
They shall maintain it all y-fere (together)
Against that man, whatsoever he be
That belongeth to the craft both fair and free
If he any strife against them make
Into their custody he shall be take (taken)
The thirteenth point is to us full lief,
He shall swear never to be no thief
Nor suecour him in his false craft,
For no good that he hath byraft- (bereft)
And thou must it know or sin
Neither for his good, nor for his kin.
The fourteenth point is full good law
To him that would be under awe:
A good true oath he must there swear
To his master and his fellows that be there;
He must be steadfast and true also
To all this ordinance, wheresoever he go,
And to his liege lord the king,
To be true to him over all thing.
And all these points here before
To them thou must need be y-swore, (sworn)
And all shall swear the same oath
Of the masons, be they lief be they loath
To all these points here before,
That hath been ordained by full good lore.
And they shall enquire every man
Of his party, as well as he can,
If any man may be found guilty
In ante of these points specially;
And who he be, let him be sought
And to the assembly let him be brought
The fifteenth point is of full lore
For them that shall be there y-swore, (sworn)
Such ordinance at the assembly was raid
Of great lords and mvsters before said
For the same that be disobedient y-wisse (I know)
Against the ordinance that there is,
Of these articles that were moved there,
Of great lords and masons all y-fere. (together)
And if they be proved openly
Before that assembly by and by
Befor that assembly , by and by
And for their guils no amends will make,
Then must they need the craft forsake;
And no masons craft they shall refuse,
And swear it never more to use.
But if that they will amends make,
Again to the craft they shall never take;
And if that thev will not do so
The sheriff shall come them soon to,.
And put their bodies in deep prison,
For the trespass that they have done,
And take their goods and their cattle
Into the king's hand, every delle, (part)
And let them dwell there full still,
Till it be our liege king's will.
Alia ordinacio artis gemetriae.
Another ordinance of the art of geometry.
They ordained there an assembly to be y-holde, (held)
Every year, wheresoever they would,
To amend the defaults, if any were found
Among the craft within the land;
Bach year or third year it should be holde, (held)
In every place wheresoever they would;
Time and place must be ordained also,
In what place they should assemble to.
All the men of craft there they must be,
And other great lords, as you must see,
To mend the faults that he there spoken,
If that any of them be then broken.
There they shall be all y-swore, (sworn)
That belongeth to this eraft's lore,
To keep their statutes every one
That were ordained bv King Athelstane;
These statutes that I have here found
I ordain they be held through my land,
For the worship of my royalty,
That I have bv my dignity.
Also at every assembly that you hold,
That you come to your liege king bold,
Beseeching him of his high grace,
To stand with you in every place,
To confirm the statutes of King Athelstane,
That he ordained to this craft by good reason.
Ars quatuor coronatorum.
The art of the four crowned ones.
Pray we now to God almight, (almighty)
And to his mother Mary bright,
That we may keep these articles here,
And these points well all y-fere, (together)
As did these holy martyrs four,
That in this craft were of great honour;
They were as good masons as on earth shall go,
Gravers and image-makers they were also.
For they were workmen of the best,
The emperor had to them great luste; (liking)
He willed of them an image to make
That might be worshipped for his sake;
Such monuments he had in his dawe, (day)
To turn the people from Christ's law.
But they were steadfast in Christ's lay (law)
And to their craft without nay; (doubt)
They loved well God and all his lore,
And were in his service ever more.
True men they were in that dawe, (day)
And lived well in God's law;
They thought no monuments for to make
For no good that they might take,
To believe on that monument for their God,
They would not do so, though he were wod; (furious)
For they would not forsake their true fay (faith)
And belleve on his false lay. (law)
The emperor let take them soon anon,
And put them in a deep prison;
The more sorely he punished them in that place,
The more joy was to them of Crist' s grace.
Then when he saw no other one,
To death he let them then gon, (go)
Whose will of their life yet more know.
By the book he might it show
In the legend of sanetorum (holy ones)
The names of quatuor coronàtorum (four crowned ones)
Their feast will be without nay, (doubt)
After Hallow-eten the eighth dale
You may hear as I do read,
That many years after, for great dread
That Noah's flood was all run
The tower of Babylon was begun,
As plain work of lime and stone
As any man should look upon;
So long and broad it was begun,
Seven miles the height shadoweth the sun.
King Nebuchadnezzar let it make
To great strength for man's sake,
Though such a flood again should come,
Over the work it should not nome, (take)
nor they had so high pride, with strong boast,
All that work therefore was lost;
An angel smote them so with divers speech,
That never one knew what the other should reche (tell)
Many years after, the good clerk Euclid
Taught the craft of geometry full wonder wide,
So he did that other time also,
Of divers crafts many mo. (more)
Through high grace of Christ in heaven,
He commenced in the sciences seven;
Grammar is the first science y-wisse, (I know)
Dialect the second, so have I bliss
Rhetoric the third without nay, (doubt)
Music is the fourth, as I you say,
Astronomy is the fifth, by my snout,
Arithmetic the sixth, without doubt,
Geometry the seventh maketh an end,
For he is both meek and hende. (courteous)
Grammar forsooth is the root,
Whoever will learn on the book;
But art passeth in his degree,
As the fruit doth the root of the tree;
Rhetoric measureth with ornate speech among,
And music it is a sweet song;
Astronomy numbereth, my dear brother,
Arithmetic sheweth one thing that is another,
geometry the seventh science it is,
That can separate falsehood from truth y-wis. (I know)
These be the sciences seven,
Who useth them well he may have heaven.
Now dear children by your wit
Pride and covetousness that you leave it,
And taketh heed to good discretion,
And to good nurture, wheresoever you come.
Now I prav you take good heed, .
For this vou must know nede, (needs)
But much more you must wyten, (know)
Than you find here written.
If thee fail thereto wit
Pray to God to send thee it:
For Christ himself, he teacheth out (us)
That holy church is God's house,
That is made for nothing ellus (else)
But for to pray in, as the book tellus; (tells us)
There the people shall gather in,
To pray and weep for their sln.
Look thou come not to church late
For to speak harlotry by the gate; XLVIII.
Then to church when thou dost fare,
Have in thy mind ever mare (more)
To worship they lord God both day and night,
With all thy wits and even thy might.
To the church door when thou dost come
Of that holy water there some thou nome"t
For every drop thou feelest there
Quencheth a venial sin, be thou ser. (sure)
But first thou must do down thy hood,
For his love that died on the rood.
Into the ehureh when thou dost gon, (go)
Pull up thy heart to Christ, anon; XLIX.
Upon the rood thou look up then,
And kneel down fair upon thy knew (knees)
Then pray to him so here to worche (work)
After the law of holy church,
For to keep the commandments ten,
That God gave to all men;
And pray to him with mild steven (voice)
To keep thee from the sins seven,
That thou here may, in this life,
Keep thee well from care and strife;
Furthermore he grant thee grace,
In heaven's bliss to have a place.
In holy church leave trifling words
Of lewd speech and foul bordes, (jests)
find put away all vanity,
And say thy pater noster and thine ave;
Look also that thou make no bere, (noise)
But always to be in thy prayer;
If thou wilt not thyself pray,
Hinder no other man by no way.
In that place neither sit nor stand,
But kneel fair down on the ground,
And when the Gospel me read shall,
Fairly thou stand up from the wall,
And bless the fare if that thou can,
When gloria tibi is begun;
And when the gospel is done,
Again thou might kneel down,
On both thy knees down thou fall,
For his love that bought us all;
And when thou hearest the bell ring
To that holy sakerynge, (sacrament)
Kneel you must both young and old,
And both your hands fair uphold,
And say then in this manner.
Fair and solf without bere; (noise)
"Jesu Lord welcome thou be,
In form of bread as I thee see,
Now Jesu for thine holy name,
Shield me from sin and shame;
Shrift and Eucharist thou grant me bo, (both)
Ere that I shall hence go,
And very contrition for my sin,
That I never, Lord, die therein;
And as thou were of maid y-bore (born)
Suffer me never to be y-lore- (dot)
But when I shall hence wend,
Grant me the bliss without end;
Amen! Amen! so mote it be!
Now sweet lady pray for me."
Thus thou might say, or some other thing
When thou kneelest at the sakerynge, (sacrament)
For covetousness after good, spare thou nought
To worship him that all hath wrought;
For glad may a man that day be,
That once in the day may him see;
It is so much worth, without nay, (doubt)
The virtue thereof no man tell may
But so much good doth that sight,
That Saint Austin telleth full right,
That day thou seest God's body
Thou shalt have these full securely:
Meet and drink at thy need
None that day shalt thou gnede; (lack)
Idle oaths and words bo, (both)
God forgiveth thee also;
Sudden death that same day
Thee dare not dread by no way
Also that day, I thee plight
Thou shalt not lose thy eye sight;
And each foot that thou goest then,
That holy sight for to sen (see)
They shall be told to stand instead
When thou hast thereto great need
That messenger the angel Gabriel
Will keep them to thee full well.
From thls matter now I may pass
To tell more benefits of the mass
To church come yet, if thou may
And hear the mass each day
If thou may not come to church,
Where that ever thou dost worche, (work)
When thou hearest the mass knylle, (toll)
Pray to God with heart still
To give they part of that service,
That in church there done is.
Furthermore yet, I will you preach
To your fellows, it for to teach,
When thou comest before a lord
In hall, in bower, or at the board,
Hood or cap that thou off do,
Ere thou come him entirely to
Twice or thrice, without doubt,
To that lord thou must lowte; (bow)
With thy right knee let it be do, (done) LVII.
Thine own worship thou save so.
Hold off thy cap and hood also,
Till thou have leave it on to do. (put)
All the time thou speakest with him,
Fair and amiably hold up thy chin
So, after the nurture of the book,
In his face kindly thou look.
Foot and hand thou keep full still
For clawing and tripping. is skill;
From spitting and sniffling keep thee also
By private expulsion let it go.
And if that thou be wise and felle, (discrete) LVIII.
Thou has great need to govern thee well.
Into the hall when thou dost wend
Amongst the gentles, good and hende, (courteous)
Presume not too high for nothing
For thine high blood, nor thy cunning,
Neither to sit nor to lean,
That is nurture good and clean.
Let not thy countenance therefore abate,
Forsooth good nurture will save thy state.
Father and mother, whatsoever they be,
Well is the child that well may thee,
In hall, in chamber, where thou dost gon; (go) LIX.
Good manners make a man.
To the next degree look wisely
To do them reverence by and by;
Do them yet no reverence all o-rowe, (in turn)
Unless that thou do them know.
To the meat when thou art set,
Fair and honestly thou eat it
First look that thine hands be clean,
And that thy knife be sharp and keen
And cut thy bread all at thy meat,
Right as it may be there y-ete. (eaten)
If thou sit by a worthier man.
Then thy self thou art one
Suffer him first to touch the meat,
Ere thyself to it reach.
To the fairest morsel thou might not strike,
Though that thou do it well like;
Keep thine hands fair and well
From foul smudging of thy towel;
Thereon thou shalt not thy nose smite, (blow)
Nor at the meat thy tooth thou pike- (pick)
Tco deep in cup thou might not sink,
Though thou have good will to drink,
Lest thine eyes would vaster thereby
when were it no courtesy.
Look in thy mouth there be no meat,
When thou beginnest to drink or speak.
When thou seest any man drinking,
That taketh heed to thy carpynge, (speech)
Soon anon thou cease thy tale
Whether he drink wine or ale,
Look also thou scorn no man
In what degree thou seest him gone:
Nor thou shalt no man deprave,
If thou wilt thy worship save
For such word might there outburst.
That might make thee sit in evil rest
Close thy hand in thy fist,
And keep thee well from " had-y-wiste." (" had known ")
In chamber, among the ladies bright,
Hold thy tongue and spend thy sight;
Laugh thou not with no great cry,
Nor make no lewd sport and ribaldry.
Play thou not but with thy peers
Nor tell thou not all that thou hears;
Discover thou not thine own deed,
For no mirth, nor for no mede: (reward)
With fair speech thou might have thy will,
With it thou might thy self spylle. (spoil) LXIII.
When thou meetest a worthy man,
Cap and hood thou hold not on;
In church in market or in the gate,
Do him reverence after his state.
If thou goest v.ith a worthier man
Then thyself thou art one,
Let thy foremost shoulder follow his
For that is nurture without lack;
When he doth speak, hold thee still,
When he hath done , say for thy will
In thy speech that thou be felle, (discreet)
And what thou sayest consider thee well
But deprive thou not him his tale,
Neither at the wine nor at the ale.
Christ then of his high grace
Save you both w it and space
Bell this book to know and read,
Heaven to have for your mede. (reward)
Amen! Amen! so mote it be!
So say we all for charity.
The Manuscript has been discussed at various times by several students. A lengthy and careful examination of it appears in volume i of the Antigrapha of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, 1889, and among the Collected Essays and Papers Relating to Freemasonry by Robert F. Gould, 1913, published by William Tait of
The name Reyius Manuscript
was the suggestion of Brother Gould as indicating its pre-eminence as a Masonic
document as well as its previous ownership by the Kings of England. The
Manuscript, as Brother Baxter well said, is of prime importance to the
Fraternity of Freemasons as being its oldest preserved document which affords
evidence of a legendary history and an indication of a speculative origin.
Brother Baxter read a paper upon the subject before the Lodge of Research at
I should like to ask you to carefully consider the wording of the poem, and to notice the remarkable number of instances in which the phrases have been introduced although in different terminology into our ritual, and the cases in which its requirements have been incorporated with our Constitutions. Even the last stage of the document, which deals with manners at table and in the presence of superiors, and appears at first sight to be quite irrelevant, may be accepted as evidence that our present custom of celebrating special Masonic events by banqueting and fraternizing was a feature of the Craft at the time of which the Manuscript speaks. You will all be acquainted in some degree with the remarkable series of documents known variously as the Manuscript Constitutions, the Gothic Constitutions, or more commonly nowadays as the Old Charoes of the British Freemasons and you will further know that after an introductory prayer, of a purely Christian character, they go on to relate how the science of geometry (or Freemasonry) came to be founded. This same legend forms the first part of the poem we are now considering, and as it clearly states that the story is to be found in old books, abundantly proves that the versifier had access to copies of the Old Charges which are unhappily now lost to us.
I wish to use this legend as the basis of a theory which I shall try to develop. Briefly stated, my idea is that the poem, as well as all the other Old Charges, clearly indicates that architectures the mistress of the arts, which is undoubtedly founded on geometry, was developed in Egypt, the cradle of civilization, and that its early practitioners were, as related in these old Manuscript, of gentle birth. They must have been the actual designers of the structures and have worked, in conjunction so far as the execution of their projects was concerned with the skilled craftsmen and manual laborers who were necessary to their purpose. A gild, composed of different grades of members, would thus be formed, possibly with different secret signs for each class, and from this gild, through different channels of development, would arise the present-day purely speculative form of Freemasonry, with its system of Degrees.
Brothers Speth and Gould have labored hard to establish the fact that prior to the institution of Grand Lodge, and during its early regime, two Degrees only were worked, and I have used the weight of later evidence to back up their assertion. What is more likely than that the higher or Master's Degree was confined to the skilled geometricians, whilst the simpler artificers had to content themselves with the lower step? All students know definitely, that from the earliest times of which we have any monuments remaining, that architecture was a living art developing along clearly defined lines, and varying in character with the nature of the materials employed, and the climatic conditions existing in the countries where they were used, down at least to the close of the Gothic Era in Western Europe, and its counterpart in Eastern countries. (I am not at all suggesting that the Renaissance effected an arrest of creative design, although it reverted to and made use of forms of a bygone age.) It is therefore not possible to conceive that buildings of any architectural pretensions could have been erected, without carefully thought-out designs having been prepared. Dealing more particularly with the actual time of the writing of the poem, we can only conclude that such a progression of design as commonly proceeded over the whole of England almost simultaneously, could only have been produced by a school of thought and not by individual effort. My firm conviction is that this school was composed of the Master Freemasons of the period.
Commenting on lines 143-G
of the poem which (modernized) read:
By old time written I find
That the Prentice should be of gentle kind
And so sometime great lords' blood,
Took this geometry that is full good.
The late F. J. Furnivall
said, "I should like to see the evidence of a lords son having become a
working mason. and dwelling seven years with his master 'his craft to
learn."' All contention is that neither the poem nor any other craft
document ever suggested that a lord's son had become a working mason. That they
became students of geometry and designers of buildings is in every way likely,
and was in no way derogatory to their dignity. I might even point out that the
present Lord Ferrers (the successor in the earldom of your own late Provincial
Grand Master) was, before his accession to the title, a practicing architect,
and that other scions of noble families are at present similarly engaged. There
seems to be good evidence of this in the poem, particularly in Lines 279-83,
which read: She privities of the chamber tell he no man, Nor in the lodge
whatsoever they don; Whatsoever thou hearest or seest them do Tell to no man
wheresoever you go; The counsel of hall and even of bower Steep it well to
great honor— That these gentlemen were on a different footing from the
ordinary craftsmen, and that their labors were conducted. not in the Lodge, but
in the chamber, are conditions which I suggest are parallel to the masons' shed
and the drawing office. Reverting now to Henry Yevley, whose name is variously
spelled, but always easily recognizable, I find on turning up his name in
Ivenning's Cyclopaedia Said by the Revd. James Anderson, D.D. (in the first
edition of the Book of Constitutions, 1723) to have been the King's Freemason,
or general surveyor of the buildings of King Edward III, and employed by His
Majesty to 'build several abbies' and other edifices. Unfortunately Doctor
Anderson was gifted with the imaginative faculty to an undue extent, so that
such statements as the foregoing (which are frequently met with in his work)
confuse more than they benefit the general reader, and, Masonically speaking,
have done much harm. We fail to see why Masonry requires unhistorical
statements to render it acceptable in any way." The Reverend Brother
Woodford, who was the author and editor of the encyclopedia, in conjunction
with Brother Vaughan, who wrote the articles under the