Banquet Night

(notes by Lisa Lewis and George Kieffer)

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.

[lines 7-8] Hiram of Tyre:  Hiram, King of Tyre, supplied and shipped materials, particularly timber 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:  (etymology – sheepfold) an ancient biblical city in the environs of the current Bouseirah in Jordan. See Isa.63.:

 “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?””

morning dress: black jacket or morning coat and grey striped trousers) is the dress traditionally worn in Freemasons’ Lodges and would have been the required dress in Kipling’s time; in more modern days a dark suit has increasingly replaced morning dress.

[line 26] Masons of Mark:  an allied order in Freemasonry called the Order of Mark Masons which uses ritualised allegory based on the building of King Solomon’s Temple to convey moral and ethical lessons and restricted to Masons who have the degree Fellowcraft or above and can thus be seen as the development of the Second Degree in Freemasonry. Mark Masters were overseers at the building of the Temple. Kipling joined Fidelity Mark Lodge No 98 in Lahore on 14 April 1887.

[line 26] hewers of wood  The phrase is found a few times in the Bible, most famously in Joshua 19, where the Gibeonites are condemned to be hewers of wood and drawers of waterfor the people of Israel. [D.H.]

[line 28] and Navy Lords of the Royal Ark:  presents a nice ambiguity between the Royal Navy which has had 5 ships with the name Ark Royal, none serving at Kipling’s time of writing, and the allied Masonic order of the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of the Royal Ark of which Kipling was a member. He joined Mount Ararat Ark Mariners Lodge No 98 on the same day as Fidelity Mark Lodge (see line 26 above). This order requires a member to be a Mark Master Mason (see above) and meetings of Mark and Royal Ark are normally consecutive on the same evening. The order is concerned with the allegory of the Great Flood and Noah’s building of the ark and the landing on Mt Ararat. The Master is referred to as Worshipful Commander and the ceremonial has a nautical flavour. The presence of Navy Lords at the banquet underlines the wide social range which exists in Freemasonry.

[Line 36] Forget these things: when a lodge is closed the members move from “labour” to “refreshment” and in this instance, the instruction is to forget about work and enjoy the banquet.

[lines 37 and 38] Brother to Beggars … Companion of Princes:  represents the equality in Freemasonry without regard to social rank or station; the first line is also paraphrased in the heading of “The Man who would be King”: “Brother to a Prince and fellow to a beggar if he be found worthy.” Companion is a member of Royal Arch Freemasonry, although there is no evidence that Kipling ever was a member of that order.

[L.L / G.K]