Here's an old little-known poem by John Godfrey Saxe penned sometime prior to 1857. Although John G. Saxe is most well known for his poem 'The Blind Men and the Elephant', he was a prolific poet and I was delighted to stumble across this gem in an old obscure book. I particularly enjoyed the word-play sprinkled through-out this poem. Note that John Saxe was a barrister by profession, so presumably he knew what he was writing about when he wrote this poem.
The Briefless Barrister
A Ballad by John G. Saxe (1816 - 1887)
An attorney was taking a turn,
In shabby habiliments drest ;
His coat was shockingly worn,
And the rust had invested his vest.
His breeches had suffered a breach,
His linen and worsted were worse ;
He had scarce a whole crown in his hat,
And not half-a-crown in his purse.
And thus as he wandered along,
A cheerless and comfortless elf,
He sought for relief in a song,
Or complainingly talked to himself :
" Unfortunate man that I am !
I've never a client but grief ;
The case is, I've no case at all,
And in brief, I've ne'er had a brief !
" I've waited and waited in vain,
Expecting an 'opening' to find,
Where an honest young lawyer might gain
Some reward for the toil of his mind.
" 'Tis not that I'm wanting in law,
Or lack an intelligent face,
That others have cases to plead,
While I have to plead for a case.
" O, how can a modest young man
E'er hope for the smallest progression-
The profession's already so full
Of lawyers so full of profession !"
While thus he was strolling around,
His eye accidentally fell
On a very deep hole in the ground
And he sighed to himself, "It is well !"
To curb his emotions, he sat
On the curb-stone the space of a minute,
Then cried, " Here's an opening at last !"
And in less than a jiffy was in it !
Next morning twelve citizens came
('Twas the coroner bade them attend),
To the end that it might be determined
How the man had determined his end !
" The man was a lawyer, I hear,"
Quoth the foreman who sat on the corse ;
" A lawyer? Alas! " said another,
"Undoubtedly he died of remorse !"
A third said, " He knew the deceased,
An attorney well versed in the laws,
And as to the cause of the death,
'Twas no doubt from the want of a cause."
The jury decided at length,
After solemnly weighing the matter,
" That the lawyer was drownded, because
He could not keep his head above water !"
For more poetic fun, head on over to this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Diane Mayr's Random Noodling Blog.
Excerpted from 'The Humorous Poetry of the English Language' by J. Parton, Mason Brothers, 1857
Happy Poetry Friday!