The Instructions

Gulliver_Crispi_Il Papagallo (Rome)

Under a weight of words
the courtroom air declines;
the oaken pews are worn;
the fixtures bide their time.

Without a breath or cease
the solemn judge holds forth.
No voice responsive sighs.
All brook his ageless worth.

The eagle on the pole
conducts a fierce salute;
the slackened flag below
cannot conceal its truth.

So spoke in ancient times
Solon or Cicero
to men who stood alike
athwart the verbal flow:

Who shifted just the same
or rocking toe to heel
imbibed the toneless dream
the while the day grew still.

The law’s an endless story
that’s bodied forth by men
monotonously hasty
to some eventual end.



Image: “Gulliver Crispi Plays the Cat with the Little Rats of the Opposition,” from Il Papagallo (Rome) – see “The Review of Reviews” (Vol. 12, July-Dec. 1895) or “The history of the nineteenth century in caricature” (1904), by Arthur Bartlett Maurice and Frederic Taber Cooper. Out of copyright as just too old anymore. I hope and believe that this drawing is a “Gulliver’s Travels” flavored satire on Italian statesman Francesco Crispi, see here, and here.

Here is a drawing of a man’s head (technically it’s a cartoon of Napoleon III) shaped like a rutabaga, for good measure.

The Root of All Evil


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