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The Lawyers Know Too Much -- Carl Sandburg

Guest poem sent in by Salima Virani
(Poem #1393) The Lawyers Know Too Much
 The lawyers, Bob, know too much.
 They are chums of the books of old John Marshall.
 They know it all, what a dead hand wrote,
 A stiff dead hand and its knuckles crumbling,
 The bones of the fingers a thin white ash.
         The lawyers know
         a dead man's thought too well.

 In the heels of the higgling lawyers, Bob,
 Too many slippery ifs and buts and howevers,
 Too much hereinbefore provided whereas,
 Too many doors to go in and out of.

 When the lawyers are through
 What is there left, Bob?
 Can a mouse nibble at it
 And find enough to fasten a tooth in?

 Why is there always a secret singing
 When a lawyer cashes in?
 Why does a hearse horse snicker
 Hauling a lawyer away?

 The work of a bricklayer goes to the blue.
 The knack of a mason outlasts a moon.
 The hands of a plasterer hold a room together.
 The land of a farmer wishes him back again.
          Singers of songs and dreamers of plays
          Build a house no wind blows over.
 The lawyers--tell me why a hearse horse snickers
          hauling a lawyer's bones.
-- Carl Sandburg
[Comments]

After reading the last submission to Minstrels about lawyers, I could not
resist making a case in defence ;)

I'm always wary of the reaction I will get from people when I tell them that
I am a lawyer. I've gotten used to the contempt and the look of disdain that
come my way. I think I've also heard almost every lawyer joke that's out
there (and there's far too many) [I'm reminded of the lawyer who said "well,
then, the next time you're arrested, go hire a comedian!" - martin].  I've
browsed through many sites looking for poetry that (even if it does not glorify

lawyers) is (at least) not condescending towards them. I haven't had much
success.

This poem, much like a lawyer joke, highlights some of the stereotypes which
give lawyers the reputation they have. The use of archaic legalese jargon,
for instance. Attributes that lawyers are Insensitive, Cold, Callous and
Unfeeling. Perhaps, that's often the only way we can maintain objectivity
and be competent? Lawyers do know how to show compassion and love.  We also
know how to laugh and feel.  And shocking as it might sound, lawyers also
appreciate poetry. But, that is when they're not being lawyers.  However, a
competent lawyer is one that can put aside personal prejudices and feelings
(even when they are in conflict with the client)and maintain objectivity.

No one explains this dichotomy to lawyer's personality better than Mulan
Ashwin, a fellow lawyer and lover of poetry (I found this poem by him on the
web):

I am not a poet.
I am a lawyer.
Subtlety and sensitivity
are prerequisites for poets,
not so for lawyers.

I would be too scared to be
a poet; they feel too much.
Lawyers should not feel too much;
they are trained not to.

Can one train to be a poet?
To feel too much?

- Mulan Ashwin

[BIO]

Not much needs to be said about Carl Sandburg.  The EB biography of Sandburg
can be had at Poem #163

Cheers,

Salima

60 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Mallika Chellappa said...

I can't agree that this poem, in any way, is a defence
of lawyers! And, truth to tell, lawyers are one of
my least favourite people, after insurance agents
and doctors. This although my own daughter is a lawyer.

There is the principle of Natural Justice, and there
is Law. Law is man-made, and changes. Smugglers after
all are only supplying a need i.e. responding to market
forces, but over the centuries have been pilloried
for their innocent participation in the play of
free market forces. Pirates have been hanged or knighted.
Bootleggers - the less said the better.

Mallika

SCLLOM said...

RATIONALIZE ALL YOU WANT, LAWYERS ARE NOT INTERESTED IN TORT REFORM, GETTING
RID OF PROBATE COURTS, AND MAKE IT SO REASONABLY INTELLIGENT PEOPLE CAN DO
BUSINESS WITHOUT THESE "HIRED GUNS". I COME FROM A GENERATION OF MEN WHO DID
BUSINESS WITH A HAND SHAKE, UNTIL THE LAWYERS GOT INTO THE ACT, TRYING TO MAKE
"SENSE" OUT OF NONSENSE"! IT IS ALL TO DO WITH MONEY AND NOTHING MORE. CARL
SANDBURG SAID IT ALL AND THAT IS WHY "LAWYERS" ARE SO OFFENDED, BECAUSE THE TRUTH
HURTS! IF WHAT I AM SAYING IS NOT TRUE WHY IS THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA SO
"OVER RUN" WITH LAWYERS? BECAUSE OF JUSTICE? CARING FOR PEOPLE? DON'T MAKE ME
SNICKER. LAWYERS ARE NOT INTERESTED IN JUSTICE, THEY ARE ONLY INTERESTED IN
MAKING A NAME FOR THEMSELVES, AND LINING THEIR POCKETS! THE TOBACCO LITIGATION,
THE ASBESTOS LITIGATION, AND A MYRIAD OTHER LAWSUITS HAVING NOTHING TO DO WITH
JUSTICE, OTHER THAN THE "LAWYERS REFERRING TO "JUST US" TO FLEECE WHOMEVER,
AND WHATEVER WE CAN, WITH IMPUNITY. YES! "WHY DOES A HEARSE HORSE SNICKER
HAULING THE BONES OF A LAWYER?" LIKE I REALLY HAVE EMPATHY FOR LEGAL THIEVES? GET
REAL!

Carl said...

Salima - you get that reaction because the vast majority of lawyers are parasites - they offer zero net contribution to society and have sold their souls cheaply to aid the Plutocrates - as a previous poster wrote- lawyers have NO interest in justice - only on subverting justice to earn their fee - they are the ultimate hypocrites

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Anonymous said...

Commenting on the lawyer's genre, a famous Indian poet once said: "Paida hua wakeel to iblees ne kaha, lo aj hum bhi saheb-e-oulad ho gaey"(Akbar Allahabadi). This poetic verse in hindi /urdu language means that it was on the day a lawyer was born when devil said 'today I have begotten children' ___ Arshad

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