The Oration

Rev. Michael D’Isreal Seymour-Jones PAGSwdB

Rev. Michael D’Isreal Seymour-Jones



Rt W PGM and CO and Brethren.

Perhaps you may not be familiar with Edward Lear, but he is famous for his nonsense  rhymes and verse of which the most familiar are his limericks such as:

There was a Young Lady of Norway,
Who casually sat in a doorway;
When the door squeezed her flat.
She exclaimed “What of that?”
This courageous Young Lady of Norway.

He also wrote longer pieces, among which was ‘The Ahkond of Swat’ and, selecting a few verses, it goes like this:

Who, or why, or which, or what,
Is the Ahkond of Swat?

Is he tall or short , or dark or fair?
Does he sit on a stool or sofa or chair,
or Squat’
The Ahkond of Swat?

Is he wise or foolish, young or old?
Does he drink his soup and his coffee cold, or Hot

The Ahkond of Swat?
Does he wear a turban, a fez, or a hat?
Does he sleep on a mattress, a bed, or a mat, or a cot,

The Ahkond of Swat?

And so on, ending with,
Someone or nobody knows, I wot,
Who, or which, or what,
Is the Ahkond of Swat!

Perhaps, brethren, you will understand that, being merely British, on being told I would have to give an oration for the consecration of a lodge to be called Namik Kemal, I, like Lear, wondered ‘Who, or why, or which, or what is Namik Kemal?’ and whether there was ‘Someone or nobody knows, I wot, who, or which, or what, is Namik Kemal!’ and why brethren of Turkish extract would wish to name a  lodge after him.

My first line of enquiry to find someone who knows, was to my good friend the Provincial Grand Director of Ceremonies: well, of course he didn’t know!   But he knew a brother who possibly did, so my enquiry was directed to your secretary designate who provided me with some links on the web, in which, at my age I’m only inclined to dip my toe!

It is probable that most of you may very well be familiar with what I have to recount, but, for those who are not, and to relate the appropriateness of the name being associated with a Masonic Lodge, I will press on!   Namik Kemal was born in 1840 of Albanian origin, Albania then being part of the Ottoman Empire, indeed his birth place is now in Turkey.   Of note to those who are unaware, surnames were not used in the time of the Ottoman Empire so Namik and Kemal were his given names.   He died at the age of 47, but in his relatively short life he established himself, as you may have read in the publicity for this event, as an Ottoman democrat, writer, intellectual, reformer, journalist, playwright and political activist, but not, as far as I am aware, a Freemason.    Correct me if I am wrong!  As a young man Kemal travelled throughout the Empire, staying in Constantinople, Kars and Sofia.   He studied a number of subjects including poetry, of which more later.

His first job was in the Translation Office of the government, but as a result of the political nature of his writings, he was dismissed and so joined a friend and fellow Young Ottoman, which he had become in 1862, as a journalist.   His essays on urging political reform in favour of a parliamentary democracy as opposed to the Sultanate led to the first of his three exiles.   Perhaps his actions were perceived as ‘having a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society.’!   Which, of course, would certainly be considered unmasonic.   However it is clear he and his fellow Young Ottomans were reformers not revolutionaries.   As a result of his time spent in Paris during his first exile he became an admirer of the constitution of the French Third Republic in particular but of Western European ideals of statehood and democratic government in general.   He summed up the Young Ottomans’ political ideals as “the sovereignty of the nation, the separation of powers, the responsibility of official, personal freedom, equality, freedom of thought, freedom of press, freedom of association, enjoyment of property, sanctity of the home.”   Of which, “personal freedom, equality, freedom of thought and  freedom of association” must surely resonate with Masonic thought.   It was with the spread of these concepts throughout Turkish society that led to a wider acceptance of Freemasonry in Turkey.

Though apparently, as I have already stated, Kemal was not a mason, there are passages in his writings, particularly in his poem ‘Ode to Freedom’, which particularly resonate with Masonic sentiment.   Three quotations from M Bahadirhan Dincaslan’s non poetic translation:

Those who consider themselves human do not grow weary of serving people, the generous never hesitate to give the helping hand to the oppressed.

That one considers himself the most humble that he pays no attention to his own desires.

The wonders of benevolence is born to the conflicts of people’s thoughts.

It strikes me that his career has a remarkable parallel with that of the craftsman represented by the candidate in our Mark ceremony of advancement.   The, possibly precociously skilled, craftsman, having probably  seen a copy of the plan of the keystone, decides that it is a piece of work well within his capabilities and so executes the work with great skill and artistry only to have his work rejected three times, through lack of vision bound by the mentality of blind obedience to the rules, and finally condemned.   Never-the-less he had persevered, ignoring the rejections of the Junior and Senior Overseers, confident in his own ability and the skilfulness of his work, to the final arbiter the Master Overseer.   Fortunately the worth of his work was eventually recognized. Similarly is the work of Namik Kemal in campaigning for the democratization of the Ottoman Empire symbolically thrice rejected by his exiles.   Apart from seeing the establishment of the first token parliament he must have felt, during his last exile in Chios, like saying “Alas, alas my labour is lost.”   However his work did come to fruition and his persistence in pursuing his ideals justified by the fact that Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern state of Turkey often remarked how he was influenced and inspired by Namik Kemal.   So he would have been justified in exclaiming “Thanks be to God I have marked well.”   I feel sure brethren that you will agree with me that, although not a mason himself, the name Namik Kemal is one that is well suited for  that of a lodge of Turkish Mark Master Masons.

As has become my custom I will finish by quoting from Psalm 118 (NRSV) in which we first read of the stone rejected by the builders.

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.
This is the Lord’s doing;
It is marvellous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Save us we beseech you, O Lord!
O lord, we beseech you, give us success!

Brethren, I pray that by persistence in pursuing the principals of our order success may indeed come in abundance to Namik Kemal Lodge and its brethren!

W.Bro. Rev. M.D. Seymour-Jones
PAGSwdB, PPrGSW, ProvGChap