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Who invented the plow?

 

I read this quote on anonymity today...

"No one knows where he who invented the plow was born, nor where he died; yet he has done more for humanity than the whole race of heroes who have drenched the earth with blood and whose deeds have been handed down with a precision proportionate only to the mischief they wrought." --Charles C. Colton

This quote struck me deeply. You see, I know of a very ancient someone who supposedly invented the plow. He's a prominent figure in Freemasonry, which is an ancient system of morality meant to take good men and make them better. Yet this man, a figure mentioned only in passing in the Bible (his name was Tubal Cain), isn't even understood or well-known among the Masons. One has to go back to a poem written in the 1800's by Mason Charles MacKay to gain some insight.


Tubal Cain

Old Tubal Cain was a man of might
In the days when the Earth was young;
By the fierce red light of his furnace bright
The strokes of his hammer rung;
And he lifted high his brawny hand
On the iron glowing clear,
Till the sparks rushed out in scarlet showers,
As he fashioned the sword and spear.
And he sang - "Hurra for my handiwork!
Hurra for the spear and sword!
Hurra for the hand that shall wield them well,
For he shall be king and lord!"

To Tubal Cain came many a one,
As he wrought by his roaring fire,
And each one prayed for a strong steel blade
As the crown of his desire:
And he made them weapons sharp and strong,
Till they shouted loud for glee,
And gave him gifts of pearl and gold,
And spoils of the forest free.
And they sang -"Hurra for Tubal Cain,
Who hath given us strength anew!
Hurra for the smith, hurra for the fire,
And hurra for the metal true!"

But a sudden change came o'er his heart
Ere the setting of the sun,
And Tubal Cain was filled with pain
For the evil he had done;
He saw that men, with rage and hate,
Made war upon their kind,
That the land was red with the blood they shed
In their lust for carnage blind.
And he said - "Alas! that ever I made,
Or that skill of mine should plan,
The spear and the sword for men whose joy
Is to slay their fellow man"

And for many a day old Tubal Cain
Sat brooding o'er his woe;
And his hand forebore to smite the ore
And his furnace smouldered low.
But he rose at last with a cheerful face,
And a bright courageous eye,
And bared his strong right arm for work,
While the quick flames mounted high.
And he sang - "Hurra for my handicraft!"
And the red sparks lit the air;
"Not alone for the blade was the strong steel made;"
And he fashioned the first ploughshare.

And men, taught wisdom from the past,
In friendship joined their hands,
Hung the sword in the hall, the spear on the wall,
And ploughed the willing lands;
And sang - "Hurra for Tubal Cain!
Our staunch good friend is he;
And for the ploughshare and the plough
To him our praise shall be.
But while oppression lifts its head,
Or a tyrant would be lord,
Though we may thank him for the plough,
We'll not forget the sword!

Note: Masons pass on their knowledge through writing (The Grand Lodge of Ontario, in Hamilton, has thousands upon thousands of such volumes) and by rote memory. I learned of this particular poem from my late grandfather, William Franklin; he used to recite Tubal Cain to me from memory.

Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2009


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