As blogs go, you won't find much opinion at ours, but I'm going to break that just for a moment to say that, as a poet, Rob Morris is no Charles Simic. Yet while Morris may not be to everyone's poetical tastes, that doesn't make him any less interesting as a historical figure.
Like Simic, Rob Morris (1818-1888) is - or, rather, was - a poet laureate. While Simic is the current poet laureate of the United States (news-flash: Kay Ryan was recently named the new poet laureate, but she doesn't start until the fall), Morris was the Poet Laureate of Freemasonry. When first hearing this, I thought that perhaps Morris was a self-styled poet laureate, but, no, in fact, he was officially recognized as such at a ceremony that took place on December 17, 1884 at the Grand Lodge of New York in New York City. Only one other poet had been dubbed the Poet Laureate of Freemasonry before - Robert Burns. Yes, the Robert Burns. Most folks who don't read poetry have likely heard of Burns, and even if you don't think you know Burns's work, you do: he wrote Auld Lang Syne ("Should auld acquaintance be forgot..."). Burns, a Freemason, was made the Poet Laureate of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No. 2, Edinburgh, Scotland in February of 1787.
In an article entitled "A Successor to Robert Burns," the New York Times described the crowning of Morris as the new poet laureate of Freemasonry at a ceremony which included a procession marching to the William Tell Overture, as well as an actual crowning of Morris with a laurel wreath. Of course, succeeding Burns is, some might say, no small task, but if anyone was going to be crowned poet laureate of Freemasonry at the time, Morris seemed like the man to pick.
Morris wrote and lectured extensively on Freemasonry. He also founded the Order of the Eastern Star and wrote its ritual. Morris's Masonic accomplishments are vast and it's difficult to understate his involvement with Freemasonry. His various affiliations and accomplishments are too many to list here.
Pictured above is the cover to the 1875 edition of Morris's Three Hundred Masonic Odes and Poems, published by William T. Anderson's Masonic Publishing Company in New York in 1875 [Call number: 63.1 .M877m 1875]. The book was published eleven years before Morris became poet laureate, illustrating, perhaps how the choice of Morris as poet laureate was, to many, a no-brainer. (If not Morris, who?)
Among the three hundred odes and poems, I found one that seems perfect for those of us writing from an American history museum founded by Freemasons and located in Lexington, Massachusetts. So, for your enjoyment and edification, I include the first stanza of Morris's poem "Lines to Lexington Lodge, No. 310, at Brooklyn, NY," from Three Hundred Masonic Odes and Poems, a poem in which Morris alludes to the Battle of Lexington, the presumed namesake of the lodge:
A fire was kindled on the plain
Of Lexington that gloweth yet;
Each blood-drop from a patriot's heart
A lasting horror did beget,
Of tyrant's chain and despot's rule,
With which our sorrowing world is full.
We have many works by and about Morris in our collection, far too numerous to list here. You can see what titles we have by searching our online catalog.