“The Regius Manuscript”
(A Poem on the Constitutions of Masonry)
“The Regius Manuscript”
(A Poem on the Constitutions of Masonry)
Here begins the first article.
The first article of this geometry: —
The master mason must be fully and surely
Steadfast, trusty and true.
He shall never then be sorry for it.
And pay thy fellows according to the price
Of the materials, you know it well;
And pay them truly, in thy faith,
What they deserve.
And hire no more men
Than they can use.
And refrain from taking bribery either for love or dread
From any other parties,
From lord nor fellow, whatever he be,
From them take thou no manner of fee;
And like a judge, stand upright;
And then you do right to both.
Do this truly wheresoever thou goest
And it shall be greatly to your praise and profit.
The second article of good masonry,
As ye may hear it here specially,
(Is) that every master, who is a mason,
Must be at the general congregation,
If he has reasonably been told
Where the assembly is to be held.
Then to that meeting he must needs go,
Unless he have a reasonable excuse.
Otherwise unless he be discourteous to that craft
Or be overtaken with falsehood,
Or else sickness has him so strongly
That he cannot come among them;
That is an excuse, good and able,
(Satisfactory) to that assembly, without talk (fiction) (fable)
The third article is, in truth,
That the master shall take no apprentice
Unless he has good assurance of dwelling
Seven years with him, as I tell you,
To learn his craft, which is profitable;
Within less (time) he may not be able (to learn)
To his lord’s profit, nor to his own
As ye may know with good cause.
The fourth article must be this,
That the master shall look well to himself
That he makes no bondsman (serf) an apprentice,
Nor take him (into the lodge) because of avarice;
Because the lord to whom he is bound,
May fetch the prentice then wheresoever he may go.
If he were taken into the lodge,
It might make much inconvenience there,
And in such a case it might befall
That it might grieve some or all.
For all the masons that are there
Will stand together in whole fellowship.
If such a person would be in the craft,
One could tell of various inconveniences.
For more ease, then, and in honesty,
Take an apprentice of higher degree.
It is found written in old times
That the apprentice should be of gentle state;
And so sometimes the blood of great lords
Took this geometry; that is full well.
The fifth article is very good,
Inasmuch as the apprentice is of lawful blood;
(perhaps lay or low blood)
The master shall not, for any advantage (or profit)
Take any apprentice that is deformed;
This is to mean, as ye may hear,
That he have his limbs all whole together;
It would be a great shame to the craft
To take in a halt or lame man,
For an imperfect man of such blood
Would do the craft but little good.
Thus ye may know, everyone,
The craft wants to have a mighty man;
A maimed man, he has no might,
Ye may know it long before night.
The sixth article ye can not miss;
That the master should do the lord no prejudice,
To take from the lord for his apprentice
Even as much as his fellows do, in all ways.
For in that craft they are fully perfect,
So is not he, ye can see it.
Also, it were against good reason,
To take his hire, as his fellows do.
This same article, in this case,
Judgeth the apprentice to take less
Than his fellows, who are fully perfect.
In various matters, it can requite
The master may his apprentice so inform,
That his hire may increase quite early,
And, before his term come to an end,
His hire may well amend.
The seventh article that is now here,
Will tell you well, all together,
That no master, for favor nor for dread,
Shall either clothe or feed a thief.
Of thieves, he shall harbor nary a one,
Nor him, who has killed a man,
Nor the like who hath a feeble name,
Lest it should bring the craft to shame.
The eighth article shows you so,
That the master may well do this;
If he has any man of ability (“in the trade” or craft)
And he is not even as perfect as he should be,
He may change him immediately
And take for him a better man.
Such a man, through recklessness,
Might (could) do the craft short (little) worship.
The ninth article shows full well
That the master must be both wise and valiant (strong).
That he must not undertake any work
Unless he can do it and finish it;
And that it should be to the lord’s profit also,
And to his craft, wheresoever he go;
And that the ground be well taken, (foundations prepared)
So that it neither moves (flee, flow) nor cracks.
The tenth article is to make known
Among the craft, to high and low,
That no master shall supplant another,
But (all) shall be together as sister and brother
In this zealous craft, all and some,
Who long (desire) to be a master mason.
Nor shall he supplant any other man
Who has taken a work upon himself,
In pain thereof (penalty) that is so strong
It weighs (comes to) no less than ten pounds,
Unless he be found guilty
Who first took the work on hand;
For no man in masonry
Shall supplant another certainly,
Unless the work is so done
That it will come to naught;
Then may a mason request that work
In order to save it for the profit of the lord;
Unless such a case occurs,
No mason shall meddle with it.
For in truth, he who begins the ground,
If he is a good and sound mason,
He has it securely in his mind
(the intention) to bring the work completely to a good end.
The eleventh article tells thee
That it is both fair and free;
For it teaches, by its might
That no mason should work at night
Unless it be in the practicing of knowledge,
If that can better the work.
The twelfth article is of high worth
To every mason, wheresoever he be;
He shall not depreciate his fellow’s work,
If he desires to preserve his (own) worth;
He should commend it with honest words,
According to the knowledge that God sent the deed,
However thou should better it by all that thou can
Between you both without dispute.
The thirteenth article, so God save me,
Is: if a master has an apprentice,
Then he should teach him completely
And explain to him measurable points,
So that he may know the craft ably,
Wheresoever he goes under the sun.
The fourteenth article by good reason
Shows the master how he shall do:
He shall take no apprentice
Without taking care in various ways
That the apprentice can, within his term
Learn from him the various points.
The fifteenth article makes an end.
And to the master it is a friend
To teach him so: that for no man
Shall he maintain his fellows in their sin,
For any profit that he might gain;
Nor suffer them to make false oaths,
For dread of their souls’ sake;
Lest it should bring the craft to shame,
And himself to much blame.
Hunter, Frederick M. The Regius Manuscript.