"Banquet Night"

(notes by Lisa Lewis and George Kieffer)

the poem

[May 1 2003]

Publication history

This poem was first published in Debits and Credits (1926), introducing the story "In the Interests of the Brethren".

Notes on the text

[line 1] King Solomon Much Masonic symbolism comes from the Old Testament and particularly the building of King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. The construction represents the labour of the many masons employed therein and is emblematically included in Masonic ceremonies. (I Kings 5 and 6; II Chron. 2-4). King Solomon is regarded by Freemasons as one of the three first Grand Masters, alongside Hiram King of Tyre (q.v.) and Hiram Abif(f) (q.v.). The Master of a Lodge is traditionally regarded as the representative of King Solomon. During his Masonic activities Kipling never served as Master of a Lodge.

[line 4] Banquet
Freemasons' lodge meetings normally conclude with a banquet.

[line 6] Fellow-Craftsmen refers to the second degree in Craft Freemasonry (referred to by Kipling in correspondence as the "Blue Degrees" - from the light blue colour of the apron), that of the Fellow Craft; the masons working on the Temple were organised as apprentices, craftsmen and master masons. Kipling attained this degree on 3 May 1886, becoming a Master Mason on 6 December 1886.

[line 7] Hiram of Tyre Hiram, King of Tyre, supplied and shipped materials, particularly wood for the building of the Temple at Jerusalem and also contributed workmen. He too is an important figure in Masonic symbolism (see above). In Chron. the name is spelt "Huram".

[line 12] Hiram Abif Hiram Abif(f) is the third of the Grand Masters in Freemasonry; the principal architect of the building of the Temple and the superintendent of the casting of the holy vessels and pillars for the Temple, sent to Jerusalem by Hiram King of Tyre. He is described as a "cunning" (i.e. knowledgeable) man in II Chron.2. He is said to have been slain by three fellow craftsmen trying to extort the secrets of a Master Mason from him.

[line 17] garments from Bozrah See Isa.,63,1 "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?"

[line 17] morning-dress a formal suit with a cutaway coat, the traditional dress worn by Freemasons to their meetings, which has only been gradually replaced by a dark suit in the 20th century.

[line 26] Masons of Mark Mark is a degree in Freemasonry, attained by Kipling in Fidelity Mark Lodge No. 98 in Lahore on 14 April 1887. It is an extension of the degree of a Fellow Craft (2nd degree in Freemasonry). Members are required to be Master Masons.

[line 28] Royal Ark This refers to the Masonic degree of Royal Ark Mariner to which Kipling was elevated with Mount Ararat Mariners Lodge No. 98 in Lahore on 14 April 1887. It is closely allied to the Mark degree and uses the building of Noah's Ark, the flood and safe landing on Mount Ararat as its emblematical representation. The Master is referred to as the Worshipful Commander and most references in the ceremonial are nautical in flavour. Members are required to be Master Mark Masons and it is usual for both meetings to take place on the same night, with the meeting in Mark preceding that of Royal Ark Mariner, as indeed happened in Kipling's time.

[lines 37 and 38] Brother to Beggars Companion of Princes Freemasonry is commonly referred to as a brotherhood and members address each other as "Brother". These lines also reflect the equality among Masons, irrespective of race, colour or creed (see also "The Mother Lodge" and "The Man who would be King"). Companion is a member of Royal Arch Freemasonry.

[L.L / G.K]