Briefless Ballads and Legal Lyrics / Second Series

Briefless Ballads and Legal Lyrics / Second Series

James Williams
James Williams

Author: Williams, James, 1851-1911
Law — Poetry
Briefless Ballads and Legal Lyrics
Second Series




Crown 8vo, cloth, price 1s. 6d.


Crown 8vo, cloth, price 2s. 6d.




“You will think a lawyer has as little business with poetry as he has with justice. Perhaps so. I have been too partial to both.”
Thomas Love Peacock, in Melincourt


[All Rights Reserved]
Transcriber’s Note: Minor typographical errors have been corrected without note. Hyphenation has been standardised.


(The First Series was published anonymously in 1881, and is now out of print. Some of the following pieces have already appeared in periodicals.)

Justinian at Windermere 9
A Vision of Legal Shadows 15
The Squire’s Daughter 21
Her Letter in Chambers 25
Law and Poetry 27
Somewhere 30
Roman Law 34
Bologna 36
A Garden Party in the Temple 37
The Spinning-House of the Future 41
How we found our Verdict 44
A Greek Libel 47
Le Temps Passé 50
Lawn Tennis in the Temple Gardens 52
A Ballade of Lost Law 53
Comœdia Juris 56
Mylward v. Weldon 59
Hampden v. Walsh 61
Willis v. The Bishop of Oxford 62
Dashwood v. Jermyn 66
Ex Parte Jones 70
Finlay v. Chirney 71
Pollard v. Photographic Company 71
The Minneapolis Case 73
Commonwealth v. Marzynski 77
Greek Anthology 81
Martial 89
Cino da Pistoia 92
Pedro Lopez de Ayala 94
Piron 94

Interioris amat Templi jam Pegasus aulas
Pieria in Medio plenior unda ruit.

Justinian at Windermere

We took a hundredweight of books
To Windermere between us,
Our dons had blessed our studious looks,
Had they by chance but seen us.

Maine, Blackstone, Sandars, all were there,
And Hallam’s Middle Ages,
And Austin with his style so rare,
And Poste’s enticing pages.

We started well: the little inn
Was deadly dull and quiet,
As dull as Mrs. Wood’s East Lynne,
Or as the verse of Wyatt.

Without distraction thus we read
From nine until eleven,
Then rowed and sailed until we fed
On potted char at seven.

Two hours of work! We could devote
Next day to recreation,
Much illness springs, so doctors note,
From lack of relaxation.

Let him read law on summer days,
Who has a soul that grovels;
Better one tale of Thackeray’s
Than all Justinian’s novels.

At noon we went upon the lake,
We could not stand the slowness
Of our lone inn, so dined on steak
(They called it steak) at Bowness.

We wrestled with the steak, when lo!
Rose Jack in such a hurry,
He saw a girl he used to know
In Suffolk or in Surrey.

What matter which? to think that she
Should lure him from his duty!
For Jack, I knew, would always be
A very slave to beauty.

And so it proved, alas! for Jack
Grew taciturn and thinner,
Was out all day alone, and back
Too often late for dinner.

What could I do? His walks and rows
All led to one conclusion;
I could not read; our work, heaven knows,
Was nothing but confusion.

Like Jack I went about alone,
Saw Wordsworth’s writing-table,
And made the higher by a stone
The “man” upon Great Gable.

At last there came a sudden pause
To all his wanderings solus,
He learned what writers on the laws
Of Rome had meant by dolus.

The Suffolk (was it Surrey?) flirt
Without a pang threw over
Poor Jack and all his works like dirt,
And caught a richer lover.

We read one morning more to say
We had not been quite idle,
And then to end the arduous day
Enjoyed a swim in Rydal.

Next day the hundredweight of books
Was packed once more in cases,
We left the lakes and hills and brooks
And southward turned our faces.

Three months, and then the Oxford Schools;
Our unbelieving college
Saw better than ourselves what fools
Pretend sometimes to knowledge.

Curst questions! Jack did only one,
He gave as his opinion
That of the Roman jurists none
Had lived before Justinian.

I answered two, but all I did
Was lacking in discretion,
I reckoned guardianship amid
The vitia of possession.

My second shot was wider still,
I held that commodata
Could not attest a prætor’s will
Because of culpa lata.

We waited fruitlessly that night,
There came no blue testamur,[A]
Nor was Jack’s heavy heart made light
By that sweet word Amamur.

[A] Since the above was written, the testamur, like many other institutions dear to the old order of Oxford men, has been superseded.

A Vision of Legal Shadows

A case at chambers left for my opinion
Had taxed my brain until the noon of night,
I read old law, and loathed the long dominion
Of fiction over right.

I had consulted Coke and Cruise and Chitty,
The works where ancient learning reigns supreme,
Until exhausted nature, moved with pity,
Sent me a bookman’s dream.

Six figures, all gigantic as Gargantua,
Floated before my eyes, and all the six
Were shades like those that once the bard of Mantua
Saw by the shore of Styx.

The first was one with countenance imperious,
His toga dim with centuries of dust;
“My name,” quoth he, “is Aulus and Agerius,[B]
My voice is hoarse with rust.

“Yet once I played my part in law proceedings,
And writers wrote of one they never saw,
I gave their point to formulæ and pleadings,
I lived but in the law.”

The second had a countenance perfidious;
What wonder? Prætors launched their formulæ
In vain against Numerius Negidius,
And not a whit cared he.

With voice of high contempt he greeted Aulus;
“In interdicts thou wast mine enemy,
Once passed no day that students did not call us
As parties, me and thee.

“On paper I was plaintiff or defendant,
On paper thou wast evermore the same;
We lived apart, a life that was transcendant,
For it was but a name.

“I hate thee, Aulus, hate thee,” low he muttered,
“It was by thee that I was always tricked,
My unsubstantial bread I ate unbuttered
In dread of interdict.

“And yet ’twas but the sentiment I hated:
Like thee I ne’er was drunk e’en vi or clam,[C]
With wine that was no wine my thirst was sated.
Like thee I was a sham.”

Two country hinds in ‘broidered smocks next followed,
Each trundled him a cart-wheel by the spokes,
Oblivion now their names hath well-nigh swallowed,
For they were Stiles and Nokes.

They spake no word, for speech to them was grievous,
With bovine eyes they supplicated me;
“We wot not what ye will, but prithee leave us,
Unlettered folk are we.”

“Go,” said I, “simple ones, and break your fallows,
Crush autumn apples in the cider press,
Law, gaffer Stiles, thy humble name still hallows,
Contracted to J. S.”

Another pair of later time succeeded,
With buckles on their shoes and silken hose,
A garb that told it was to them who heeded
John Doe’s and Richard Roe’s.

“Ah me! I was a casual ejector,[D]
In the brave days of old,” I heard one say;
“I knew Elizabeth, the Lord Protector
I spake with yesterday.”

To whom in contradiction snarled the other,
“There was no living blood our veins to fill.
Both you and I were nought but shadows, brother,
And we are shadows still.”

Room for a lady, room, as at Megiddo
The hosts made way for passage of the king,
For from the darkness crept there forth a widow
In weeds and wedding ring.

“I am the widow, I, whereof the singers
Of Scotland sang, their cruel words so smote
My tender heart, that ofttimes itched my fingers
To take them by the throat.

“He scoffed at me, dour bachelor of Glasgow,[E]
If I existed not for him, the knave,
‘Twas all his fault who let some bonnie lass go
Unwedded to her grave.”

[B] Aulus Agerius and Numerius Negidius are names continually occurring in the Roman institutional writers as typical names of parties to legal process, corresponding very much to the John Stiles and John Nokes of the older English law-books, and the Amr and Zaid of Mohammedan law. John Stiles was frequently contracted to J. S.

[C] Vi and clam were part of the form of the interdict, which was a mode of procedure by which the prætor settled the right of possession of landed property.

[D] The casual ejector was John Doe, who was, like Richard Roe, an entirely imaginary person, of much importance in the old action of ejectment abolished in 1852.

[E] The allusion is to the “Advocates’ Widows Fund,” subscribed to by all members of the Scottish bar, married or unmarried. The non-existent widow of the unmarried advocate has been a frequent subject of legal verse. See “The Bachelor’s Dream,” by John Rankine, (Journal of Jurisprudence, vol. xxii. p. 155), “My Widow,” by David Crichton (id. vol. xxiv. p. 51).

The Squire’s Daughter

We crawled about the nursery
In tenderest years in tether,
At six we waded in the sea
And caught our colds together.

At ten we practised playing at
A kind of heathen cricket,
A croquet mallet was the bat,
The Squire’s old hat the wicket.

At twelve, the cricket waxing slow,
With home-made bow and arrow
We took to shooting—once I know
I all but hit a sparrow.

She took birds’ nests from easy trees,
I climbed the oaks and ashes,
‘Twas deadly work for hands and knees,
Deplorable for sashes.

At hide and seek one summer day
We played in merry laughter,
‘Twas then she hid her heart away,
I never found it after.

So time slipped by until my call,
For out of the professions
I chose the Bar as best of all,
And joined the Loamshire Sessions.

The reason for it was that there
Her father, short and pursy,
Doled out scant justice in the chair
And even scanter mercy.

As Holofernes lost his head
To Judith of Bethulia,
So I fell victim, but instead
Of Judith it was Julia.

My speech left juries in the dark,
Of Julia I was thinking,
And once I heard a coarse remark
About a fellow drinking.

I practised verse in leisure time
Both in and out of season,
It was indubitably rhyme,
Occasionally reason.

I lacked the cheek to tell my woes,
Had not concealment fed on
My damask cheek, but left my nose
With twice its share of red on?

Too horrible was this suspense,
At last, in desperation
I went to Loamshire on pretence
Of death of a relation.

The Squire was beaming; “Julia’s gone
To London for a visit,
But with a wedding coming on
That’s not surprising, is it?

“Old friends like you will think, no doubt,
That she is young to marry,
But ever since she first came out,
She’s been engaged to Harry.”

Her Letter in Chambers

I sat by the fire and watched it blaze,
And dreamed that she wrote me a letter,
And for that dream to the end of my days
To Fancy I owe myself debtor.

Next day there came the postman’s knock,
The morning was bright and sunny,
And showed me a sheaf of circulars, stock
Attempts to get hold of my money.

‘Mid correspondence of this dull kind
A dainty notelet lay hidden,
It seemed as though it had half a mind
To consider itself forbidden.

The writing was like herself, complete,

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