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The gay coquette the drinking stuff;
The drinker next the farms and cattle;
And on the miser, rude and rough,
The robes and lace did Æsop settle;
For thus, he said, an early date
Would see the sisters alienate
Their several shares of the estate.
No motive now in maidenhood to tarry,
They all would seek, post haste, to marry;
And having each a splendid bait,
Each soon would find a fitting mate,
And leaving thus their father's goods intact,
Would to their mother pay them all in fact, –
Which of the testament
Was plainly the intent.
The people, who had thought a slave an ass,
Much wondered how it came to pass,
That one alone should have more sense
Than all their men of most pretence.”
Among La Fontaine's Tales is one entitled “ Le Juge de Mesle," of which I propose the following paraphrase :
“Two advocates, unable to agree,
Perplexed a plain provincial magistrate :
They so enwrapped the case in mystery,
He could conjecture naught of its true state.
Two straws he did select, of length unequal,
And offered to the parties, with close grip:
Defendant drew the long, and as a sequel,
Acquitted, gaily from the court did trip.
The other members of the court deride:
But he replies, My blame you must divide;
My judgment is no novelty in law :
For you at hazard frequently decide,
And never pull, nor even care, a straw."
The story of the Oyster and the Litigants has been so spiritedly told by La Fontaine, that although it has been so often told, I will venture to present it in Wright's excellent version :
“Two pilgrims on the sand espied
An oyster thrown up by the tide:
In hope both swallowed ocean's fruit,
But ere the fact there came dispute.
While one stooped down to take the prey,
The other pushed him quite away.
Said he, 'twere rather meet
To settle which shall eat.
Why, he who first the oyster saw,
Should be its eater by the law:
The other should but see him do it.
Replied his mate, If thus you view it,
Thank God the lucky eye is mine.
But I've an eye not worse than thine,
The other cried, and will be cursed,
If, too, I didn't see it first.
You saw it, did you? Grant it true,
I saw it, then, and felt it too.
Amidst this very sweet affair,
Arrived a person very big,
Yclept Sir Nincom Periwig.
They made him judge, — to set the matter square.
Sir Nincom, with a solemn face,
Took up the oyster and the case.
In opening both, the first he swallowed ;
And in due time his judgment followed.
Attend: the court awards you each a shell,
Cost free; depart in peace, and use them well.
Foot up the cost of suits at law,
The leavings reckon, and award,
The cash you'll see Sir Nincom draw,
And leave the parties -
-purse and cards."
Sam Butler had not a high opinion of lawyers, which perhaps was due to his having married a widow whom he thought possessed of a great fortune, which, being placed on bad security, or through the unskilfulness or roguery of a lawyer, was lost. In his commonplace book he says a lawyer never ends a suit, but prunes it, that it may grow the faster, and yield a greater increase of strife. The same idea occurs in Hudibras :
“So lawyers, lest the bear defendant,
And plaintiff dog, should make an end on't,
Do stave and tail with writs of error,
Reverse of judgment, and demurrer,
To let them breathe a while, and then
Cry whoop, and set them on again.”
“ Like scriv'ner newly crucify’d,” refers to the cutting off the ears, inflicted on lawyers or scriveners guilty of dishonest practices. In another place he says,
“ Others believe no voice t’an organ
So sweet as lawyer's in his bar-gown,
Until, with subtle cobweb cheats,
They're catch'd in knotted law, like nets;
In which, when once they are imbrangled,
The more they stir, the more they're tangled:
And while their purses can dispute,
There's no end of th' immortal suit."
Of the Pickwickian nature of our quarrels, and the character of our learning, he holds these just views :
“For law's the wisdom of all ages
And manag'd by the ablest sages;
Who, though their bus'ness at the bar
Be but a kind of civil war,
In which th' engage with fiercer dudgeons
Than e'er the Grecians did, and Trojans,
They never manage the contest
T' impair their public interest,
Or by their controversies lessen
The dignity of their profession."
“While lawyers have more sober sense
Than t argue at their own expense,
But make their best advantages
Of others' quarrels, like the Swiss;
And out of foreign controversies,
By aiding both sides, fill their purses;
But have no int'rest in the cause
For which th' engage and wage the laws,
Nor further prospect than their pay,
Whether they lose or win the day;
And tho' th' abounded in all ages
With sundry learned clerks and sages;
Tho' all their bus'ness be dispute,
With which they canvass ev'ry suit,
They've no disputes about their art,
Nor in polemics controvert:
While all professions else are found
With nothing but disputes t abound.”
“But lawyers are too wise a nation
T'expose their trade to disputation,
Or make the busy rabble judges
Of all their secret piques and grudges;
In which, whoever wins the day,
The whole profession's sure to pay.
Besides, no mountebanks nor cheats
Dare undertake to do their feats,
When in all other sciences
They swarm like insects, and increase.
For what bigot durst ever draw,
By Inward Light, a deed in law?
Or could hold forth, by revelation,
An answer to a declaration ?
For those that meddle with their tools,
Will cut their fingers, if they're fools;
And if you follow their advice,
In bills and answers and replies,
They'll write a love letter in chancery."
“He that with injury is griev'd,
And goes to law to be reliev'd,
Is sillier than a sottish chouse,
Who, when a thief has robb'd his house,
Applies himself to cunning men
To help him to his goods agen;
When all he can expect to gain,
Is but to squander more in vain."
A righteous hit at “detectives." Under these lines, in Butler's manuscript, are the following strictures on lawyers : “More nice and subtle than those wire-drawers,
Of equity and justice, common lawyers ;
Who never end, but always prune, a suit,
To make it bear the greater store of fruit.
As laboring men their hands, criers their lungs,
Porters their backs, lawyers hire out their tongues.