You have heard the tolling of 11 strokes. This is to remind us that with Elks, the hour of 11 has a tender significance. Wherever Elks may roam, whatever their lot in life may be, When this hour falls upon the dial of night, the great heart of Elkdom swells and throbs. It is the golden hour of recollection, the homecoming of those who wander, The mystic roll call of those who will come no more. Living or dead, Elks are never forgotten, never forsaken. Morning and noon may pass them by, the light of day sink heedlessly in the West, But ere the shadows of midnight shall fall, The chimes of memory will be pealing forth the friendly message, "To our absent members."
In regard to the Elks' 11 O'Clock Toast and its origin, we have to go back long before the BPOE came into existence. One of the main contributions of Charles Richardson -- in stage name of Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian and founder of the American branch of the Jolly Corks -- was to deliver into the hands of newborn Elks the rituals and traditions of a fraternal organization started in England around 1010 A.D., the Royal and Antedeluvian Order of Buffaloes, to which he belonged prior to coming to New York.
The RAOB, or Buffaloes as we shall henceforth refer to them, also practiced an 11 o'clock toast in remembrance of the Battle of Hastings in October of 1066. Following his victory, William of Normandy imported a set of rules, both martial and civil in nature, to keep control of a seething Norman-Saxon population always on the edge of a revolution.
Among those rules was a curfew law requiring all watch fires, bonfires (basically all lights controlled by private citizens that could serve as signals) to be extinguished at 11 each night. From strategically placed watchtowers that also served as early fire-alarm posts, the call would go out to douse or shutter all lights and bank all fires. This also served to discourage secret and treasonous meetings, as chimney sparks stood out against the black sky. A person away from his home and out on the darkened streets, when all doors were barred for the night, risked great peril from either evildoers or patrolling militia.
The hour of 11 quickly acquired a somber meaning, and in the centuries that followed, became the synonym throughout Europe for someone on his deathbed or about to go into battle: i.e."His family gathered about his bed at the 11th hour," or "The troops in the trenches hastily wrote notes to their families as the 11th hour approached when they must charge over the top.
Thus, when the 15 Jolly Corks (of whom seven were not native-born Americans) voted on February 16, 1868, to start a more formal and official organization, they were already aware of an almost universally prevalent sentiment about the mystic and haunting aura connected with the nightly hour of 11, and it took no great eloquence by Vivian to establish a ritual toast similar to that of the Buffaloes at the next-to-last hour each day.
The great variety of 11 O’Clock Toasts, including the Jolly Corks Toast, makes it clear that there was no fixed and official version until 1906-10. Given our theatrical origins, it was almost mandatory that the pre-1900 Elks would be expected to compose a beautiful toast extemporaneously at will. Regardless of the form, however, the custom is as old as the Elks.
Now is the hour when Elkdom's tower
is darkened by the shroud of night,
And father time on his silver chime
Tolls off each moment's flight.
In Cloistered halls each Elk recalls
His Brothers where'er they be,
And traces their faces to well-known places
In the annals of memory.
Whether they stand on a foreign land
Or lie in an earthen bed,
Whether they be on the boundless sea
With the breakers of death ahead.
Whate'er their plight on this eerie night
Whate'er their fate may be
Where ever they are be it near or far
They are thinking of you and me.
So drink from the fountain of fellowship
To the Brother who clasped your hand
And wrote your worth in the rock of earth
And your faults upon the sand.
TO OUR ABSENT BROTHERS
Mrs. H.A. Morton
Santa Monica, 10/31/13
Dedicated to Santa Monica Lodge No. 906L
Eleven has struck on the Eastern coast,
The Elks have given their standing toast,
"To our absent Brothers," where'er they be.
Whether on land or on the sea.
"To our absent Brothers," from East to West.
Good wishes we send our very best.
The Lodge in the mountains and on the plain.
At eleven takes up this glad refrain:
"To our absent Brothers," the toast peals forth
From the sunny South, to the frozen North.
Though many in foreign lands may roam.
They know at that hour they are thought of at home
The toast even reaches the other shore.
Where they live who meet with us no more.
Like an echo, it comes back loud and clear
"To our absent Brothers," 'till we meet here
So with loving thought, and helping hand,
The work goes on o'er all our land.
And only the Ruler Supreme can know
The good Elks do wherever they go.
Eleven strikes on the Western coast.
The Elks are giving their standing toast.
"To our absent Brothers," from West to East. Including the greatest unto the least,<
For at this Elks' hour we all agree,
"To our absent Brothers," B. P. O. E.
—From The Pacific Coast Elk
Elkdom's house is darkened,
the Eleventh Hour is here.
The chimes are calling softly
to our Brothers far and near.
Wherever his footsteps take him,
to near or distant shore,
the Heart of Elkdom beats for him
and for those who come no more.
If you see a Brother falter,
reach out a helping hand ...
His virtues live in memory,
his faults drift with the sand ...
To our Absent Brothers
The 11 O'Clock Toast
Created and Delivered by Dr. C.H. Harvey of Erie, PA, Lodge No. 67 at a Lodge banquet held 9/8/1896.
Here! stop that song, look at the clock,
Although it's to our liking;
The joke must wait, ease up the talk,
Eleven o'clock is striking;
Fill glasses for that old-time toast,
We hold above all others,
The one we love to honor most,
"Here's to our absent brothers."
Good fellows all, where are you now?
Who came with cheery greeting,
In other days, and wondered how,
Men thought that life was fleeting;
There's Charlie, brightest of them all,
His face shines in the claret,
He wore a smile to conquer all,
As none but he could wear it.
Dear boy! his shadow in the glass,
Shines bright and fair and cheery;
I almost hear the old jest pass,
"Let's drink and all be merry,"
And Jack who died a year ago,
When life was in its summer;
I see him in the shadows now,
A new and loving comer.
Dear boys! I know not where you are,
Nor do I care to ponder,
Upon your home in that far land,
Across the fairy yonder;
But yet I know where'er you are,
You'd hurry out of heaven,
To drink this toast with those you love,
When the clock points to eleven.
So we who gather 'round the board,
Remember all the others;
Drink deep the toast, without a word,
"Here's to the absent brothers."
My Brothers and Friends:
The hour of eleven has tolled again;
We pause, in our human endeavor
To renew our faith in the friendship of those
Whose virtues stay with us forever.
With hearts full of hope and voices of cheer
For an Elk is never forsaken,
We think kindly thoughts and speak tender words
Of those whose place we have taken.
The hours speed by and the days turn to months.
We cherish this brief retrospection;
The pages of time tell of memories dear
In the book of fond recollection.
Whatever the task, be it large or small
To lighten the burden of others;
Together we'll work and together we'll give
A toast —"To our absent brothers."
TO OUR ABSENT BROTHERS
You have listened to the tolling of the eleventh chime,
A reminder our pleasures should cease for a time
In order that those who have finished their score,
May all be brought to mind once more
Wherever our brothers may wander or roam,
On land or sea or their celestial home.
Whatever their lot and life may be,
It is meet with us the surviving to see.
That the hour of eleven on the dial of night,
Shall never pass beyond our sight,
Without our hearts to throb and swell
In wishing our absent brothers well.
Our golden hour of mutual recollection,
A time devoted to silent reflection
Of the home bound brothers on a distant shore,
And the roll call of those, who will come no more.
Regardless of the paths their lives may have taken,
They are never forgotten, never forsaken.
Morning and noon may pass them by,
The light of day fade from the sky,
But ere the shadow of midnight shall fall,
The chimes of memory shall summon us all.
To speed them a message above all others,
God grant you peace,
TO OUR ABSENT BROTHERS
by Tracy E. Kareha, 1977
Tis' the hour of eleven,
throughout Elkdom does it chime.
As we remember our absent brothers,
And their virtues at this time.
One by one they've left us,
To carry on each day.
Even though they've gone now,
They'll help show us the way.
While they were here with us,
They served their country well.
They will never be forgotten,
As it makes our heart throb and swell.
At the mystic hour of eleven,
We remember the brothers we once knew.
And on their journey through etetnity,
Always thinking of them as we do.
So when we hear the tolling,
We very quietly stand.
And remember our absent brothers,
Whom we've walked with hand in hand.
TO OUR ABSENT BROTHERS
Written By James (Bud) McGrath
Dedicated to Troy Lodge # 141
Now the chimes have struck eleven
The lights are soft and low
As we stand here in reverence
Of the friends we used to know
The hall is quiet as echoes call
Their voices we can hear
The spirits that surround us
With memories of yesteryear
So let us bow our heads in silence
Let us say a small prayer
That some day we are reunited
In this hall we hold dear
Let us recall our absent members
The friendly faces we used to know
No longer can we shake their hand
Like we did so long ago
The fires that burned ever so bright
Have dimmed to dying embers
Let us drink deep from this cup
Here's to our absent members