OPPC_Poster_Feb11_2014The One Page Poetry Circle will meet February 11 at St. Agnes Library (NYPL) to discuss Poetry and the Law.

Poetry and the Law would at first appear to be disparate entities. The editors of a recent collection of poetry, Poetry of the Law: From Chaucer to the Present, assert in their introduction that there is a place for poetry in legal studies, a place for legal themes in poetry, and that lawyers would benefit from such exposure.

When the distinguished eighteenth-century jurist Sir William Blackstone retired from the law, he began  “The Lawyer’s Farewell to His Muse,” with these words:

As by some tyrant’s stern command,
A wretch forsakes his native land,
In foreign climes condemn’d to roam
An endless exile from his home;
Pensive he treads the destined way,
And dreads to go; nor dares to stay;
Till on some neighbouring mountains’ brow
He stops, and turns his eyes below;
There, melting at the well-known view,
Drops a last tear, and bids adieu:
so I, thus doom’d from thee to part,
Gay queen of Fancy, and of art,
Reluctant move, with doubtful mind,
Oft stop, and often look behind.

Others have not looked at the legal system so fondly. In “Justice,” Langston Hughes describes a completely different view:

That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise:
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.

Aside from our judicial system there are other kinds of laws as well. Rudyard Kipling explored the law of the jungle in his poem by the same name:

Now this is the Law of the Jungle — as old and as true as the sky;
And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back —
For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.

We look forward to your comments about these or other poems that speak of law.