The singer calls all "Knights of (Malta)" to join with him to fight for good. "For we are the true-born Sons of Levi, None on earth can with us compare." The listeners are guided through the (Templar) ritual, and acts of God in Israel are recalled
Sons of Levi (Knights of Malta) Complete text(s) *** A *** The Knights of Malta From John Ord, Ord's Bothy Songs and Ballads, pp. 392-393. Come all ye knights, ye knights of Malta, In your glittering armour shine, Assist your good and worthy Prince To protect the ark divine; For we are the true-born sons of Levi, Few on earth with us compare, We are the root and branch of David, That bright and glorious morning star. With trembling steps I slow advanced, Sometimes I knocked both loud and shrill, Until a knight in armour bright Demanded me what was my will. For we are the gree-born sons of Levi, Few on earth with us compare; We wear the black and scarlet garter, And on our left breast a blazing star. After some questions being asked, To which I answered with some fear, They told me neither Turk nor heathen Could by any means enter here. For we are the true-born sons of Levi, etc. With a cross and star placed on my breast, And Justice girded my loins around, Always remember the twelve stones On Jordan's bank are to be found. For we are the free-born sons of Levi, etc. Noah planted the first garden; Moses planted the first rod; He smote the waters for the Egyptians, And turned the Jordan into bloos. For we are the true-born sons of Levi, etc. As Joshua and I passed over Jordan, These twelve stones we bore along, It was the twelve priests and our grand master Who carried the Ark of God along. For we are the free-born sons of Levi, etc. There were seven trumpets of rams' horns Sounded loud before the Ark; Gilgal was our resting-place, And there we left our holy mark. For we are the true-born sons of Levi, etc. Come, all you brethren and join with me, And bear the cross as I have done; Come, enter into this blessed temple Fitted near Jerusalem. For we are the free-born sons of Levi, etc. Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, Many there be that'll go therein; Come you to me and to my habitation, For Solomon's temple's free from sin. For we are the true-born sons of Levi, Few on earth with us compare, For we are the root and branch of David, That bright and glorious morning star.
The Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, or Hospitallers for short, was founded during the Crusades, first as a refuge for pilgrims in need and then as a knightly order to defend the holy sites. After the last Crusader city, Acre, fell in 1291, they gradually retreated across the Mediterranean, settling in Malta in 1530.
Since that time, the Hospitallers have been known as the "Knights of Malta," even though they have been based in Rome since Napoleon pushed them out of Malta in 1798.
The Hospitallers had strong requirements of initates, which may be reflected in the song. The order was suppressed in England in early Protestant times, but re-formed in the nineteenth century. I doubt the song actually originates with the Hospitallers, though; they would not publish such a broadside. Rather, it appears to be a Masonic piece, though one with unusual popularity (perhaps because it has been mated with at least one very good tune).
Scriptural references in the song are numerous, e.g.
* Joshua crossing Jordan, taking twelve stones along, with the Ark of the Covenant, and ending in Gilgal: Joshua 3:12-4:24
* Noah planted the first garden: Properly the first vineyard; Gen. 9:20. The Bible calls Noah the first tiller of the soil in the same verse, but Cain is called the first tiller in Genesis 4:2
Moses planted Aaron's rod: Probably a reference to the budding rod in Numbers 17:1-11, though the next few lines refer to the crossing of the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds), Exodus 14:16-29.
Nowhere did Moses turn the Jordan into blood (Moses didn't even reach the banks of Jordan); he turned the Nile to blood in Exodus 7:18-24.
The "ark," of course, is not Noah's Ark but the Ark of the Covenant; the Sons of Levi were the holy tribe of Israel.
The lines in the chorus about the root and branch of David, and the morning star, are from Rev. 22:16 (I'd quibble a bit with the King James translation of the verse, but of course the song is based on the Bible as the Masons knew it).. - RBW