This poem appears on page 35-6 in the 1846 edition of “The Odd Fellows’ Offering”, a book published annually from 1843-1854 of collected literary submissions by members. It has poems, stories, speeches, and more, all relating to Odd Fellowship in some way. Be it highlighting a profound experience or analyzing the smallest thread of symbolism, these books are a wonderful peek into the creativity and passion members had for our Order in the mid-1800’s. They are all available online to read for free in a number of places, but the Hathi Trust Digital Library has them in one tidy spot.
What really grabbed me about this poem is the clever depiction of the Three Links. The Three Links is the grand symbol and conceptual philosophy of our Order. We know them as the chain that connects us all together as Odd Fellows that cannot be broken. That each link is a physical representation of Friendship, Love, and Truth which can be lengthened and strengthened by Faith, Hope, Charity and Universal Justice if a member chooses to make that journey. We are also taught that we need each of the Three Links in unison supporting each other equally and that the virtues cannot have a fraction of effectiveness when acting alone. But how much thought beyond this have we given our modest symbol? It is so simple an image that further contemplation beyond its most literal meanings can be missed.
First, let’s examine the poem above. The author Peter Squires likens the Three Links as three children, the virtues of Odd Fellowship personified, wandering alone in despair since man’s expulsion from Eden. Friendship alone is depicted as a “fair weather friend”, only around for the good times, but nowhere to be seen when needed the most. Love alone is depicted as running aimlessly, purely on impulse and instinct. Acting in this manner without restraint will land Love in a variety of situations, some good, and some with not so pleasant results and a lot of heartache. Finally, Truth, while wearing a shining armor and pure form has no motivation to answer the call to battle and instead hides itself away to stay out of trouble.
Alone, each of these virtues seems to be able to do more harm than good. Only when they are finally united and each acting as a system of checks and balances to enforce and support each other can each virtue reach its full potential. “We are only as strong as our weakest link” and the Three Links must work in perfect unison in order to guide us to the ultimate destiny of all mankind. There is no cheating this system as the links cannot be broken or bent to serve our will.
In F,L,& T