The Mason’s Word, song

Eddie Butcher, singing in English
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Lyrics

You men and maids, I pray attend, now listen to me a while,
It’s of a strange adventure that happened the other day:
I’ll tell young lovers of a plan that they’ll not think absurd,
How to gain their sweetheart’s favour by the curious Mason’s Word.

2
A young man went a-courting a handsome sprightly lass,
The night was dark, but what cared he, his sweetheart had the brass;
Her father had laid out for her a man both whipped and spurred,
Oh, but aye she loved her Jamie for he knew the Mason’s Word.

3
It was on the road going home that night the storm began to blow
And soon his heart began to fail at the sleet and drifting snow;
He turned himself right round about, to his true love he went
For to see how constant she at night it was his whole intent.

4
He tinkled at his love’s window, she answered him full soon
Saying, – Who is that this hour of night to wake me does presume?
Well, if you be my own true love as I take you to be
Tell me the curious Mason’s Word that twice you promised me.

5
He says, – my dear, how would you like to undergo the toil
To mount upon a horned goat and ride for many a mile?
– I am sure that it would be and action most absurd
For to ride astride all on a goat to learn the Mason’s Word.

6
She opened the hall door, she enfolded him in her arms
And soon the storm he forgot still thinking on her charms;
He never drew the curtain till the morning sun did shine
And when he arose he says, – You’ll mind ‘Love, rise and let me in’.

7
It was not long after that when her waist it did grow round,
Her father sent for Jamie and gave him two hundred pounds,
– And when your first son’s born I will give to you the third,
So now he has got his Mary and still keeps the Mason’s Word.

Notes

To call this variation on the night-visit song a masonic song would be misleading, but it was certainly inspired by the vogue for masonic songs in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For the general public, secrecy was the main attribute of the masonic order. A broadside printed by Pitts, London, ‘Adam in the garden’, asks

‘Did you hear the Mason’s word,
Was whisper’d round the other night,
No girl at all does us annoy,
No care do put us in a fright’  – C: Res. B 1943 (239)

May we surmise Irish composition on the basis of a (southern) Irish rhyme toil:mile, 5.1 –2, supported perhaps by an Irish fondness for seducing heiresses? Slight evidence indeed, and slight again are clues to date. The ‘man both whipped and spurred’ suggests the eighteenth century, and the style accords in general with the popular poetry of that epoch.

No other version of this song has come to my notice. According to family lore it served as a lullaby for at least two of Eddie’s children, who would get into the cradle when they were past the age for it in order to have it sung to them.