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 British Museum. It was published in 1840 by James 0. Halliwell, and again in 1844, under the title of The Early History of Freemasonry in England. The Masonic character of the poem remained unknown until its discovery by Halliwell, who was not a Freemason, because it was catalogued as A Poem of Moral Duties. It is now more commonly known as the Regius Manuscript because it formed part of the Royal Library commenced`by Henry VII and presented to the British Museum by George II.
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 HaU~uneU 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 lI. 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 British Museum where the present reviser of this work had the pleasure of personally examining it. Formerly in the possession of Charles Theyer, a boox collector of the seventeenth century and listed in Bernards CatulZugous Manuscripts am Anyliac, Oxford, 1697 (page 200), and described in David Casley s Catalogue of the Manuscripts of the Old Royal Library, 1734 (page 259), as a Poem of Moral levities, the contents were mistaken until J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps mentioned it in his paper on the Introduction of Freemasonry into England, read before the SocietS of Antiquaries during the session of 183tS to 1839. Two small editions of the transcript of the poem were published as Brother Hawkins tells us. The first edition contained a faesimile reproduction of four lines of the manuscript, the second similarly reproduced the first page, and he also gave a glossary which with the transcript was published in a veritable gem of a work in 1889, Spencer and Company with an introduction by Brother H. J. Whymper. Halliwell-Phillipps pointed out that the writer was probable a priest, this evidently from the allusions in line 699 (page LI). He also calls attention to line 143 (page XI), as intimating that a still older manuscript was in existence when the poem was written.
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 mav be seen some of the difficulties met in turning such a manuscript into modern English.
In the following transcript Brother Baxter has adhered strietly 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.
- Whose wol bothe wel rede and loke
- 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, . . .
Hic incipiunt constituciones artis gemetriac cecundum Euclydem
Here begin the constitutions of the art of Geometry according to Euclid.
- 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 Euclid,
- 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 worshipped,
- 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 honour,
- 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 del, (part)
- 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.
- Articulus secundus.
- Second article.
- 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.
- Artieulus tercius
- Third article.
- 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.
- Articulus quartus.
- Fourth article.
- 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
- trticulus quintus.
- Fifth article.
- 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.
- Articulus sextus
- Sixth article.
- 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.
- trticulus septimus.
- Seventh article.
- 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.
- Articulus octavus.
- Eighth article.
- 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.
- Articulus nonus.
- Ninth article.
- 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)
- Articulus decimus.
- Tenth article.
- 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.
- Articulus undecimus.
- eleventh articie.
- 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.
- Articulus duodecimus.
- Twelfth article.
- 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)
- Articulus XIIJus.
- Thirteenth article.
- 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.
- Articulus XIIIJus.
- Fourteenth article.
- 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.
- Articulus quindecimus.
- Fifteenth article.
- 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
- Plures constituciones.
- Plural constitutions.
- 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
- Secundus punctus.
- Second point.
- 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)
- Tercius punctus.
- Third point.
- 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.
- Quartus punctus.
- Fourth point.
- 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.
- Quintus punctus.
- Fifth point.
- 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.
- Sextus punctus.
- Sixth point.
- 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.
- Septimus punctus.
- Seventh point.
- 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.
- Octavus punctus.
- Eighth point.
- 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.
- Nonus punctus.
- Ninth point.
- 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.