In 1816, the author of Grimm's fairy tales, Jakob Grimm (1785-1863), the son of a German lawyer, and himself a one-time law student, wrote:

"... poetry and law have risen from the same bed."

Judicial balance illustrationAmerican lawyer and poet Archibald Macleish (892-1982) rose to the lofty position as official Librarian of Congress. In an article entitled Apoligia, he wrote:

"The business of the law is to make sense of the confusion of what we call human life - to reduce it to order but at the same time to give it possibility, scope, even dignity.

"But what, then, is the business of poetry? Precisely to make sense of the chaos of our lives. To create the understanding of our lives. To compose an order which the bewildered, angry heart can recognize. To imagine man."

In a 2006 article in the Roger Williams University Law Review called Law and Poetry, authors Eberle and Grossfield wrote:

"... law and poetry share important relations between them and exert mutual influence on each other. We have seen that law and poetry share language as their working medium; language shapes the chaos of experience in law and poetry; and law and poetry are products of human ingenuity and imagination.

"... law and poetry differ from one another as well. Law tends more toward the scientific dimension of human thought; poetry tends more toward man's artistic side. Law is often an act of power; poetry makes no claim on power."

The Rain It Raineth

Charles Bowen (1835-1896), later renamed Lord Bowen, is often credited with this little gem although there are other pretenders to the original copyright.

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella.
But chiefly on the just because
The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.

Help Wanted

Here's one for paralegals of the world. Note that "mien" is a now-disused short form for demeanor or appearance.

A law firm commanding
Position of standing
Requires a general clerk.
A man who's admitted
To practice, and fitted
To handle diversified work.

Must know the proceedings
Relating to pleadings,
The ways of preparing a brief.
Must argue with unction
For writs of injunction
As well as for legal relief.

Help WantedMust form corporations
And hold consultations,
Assuming a dignified mien.
Should read each decision
And legal provision
Wherever the same may be seen.

Must analyze cases
And get at their basis,
Should never be idle or slow.
Must manifest learning
In all things concerning
The matters referred to below:

Attachments and trials,
Specific denials,
Demurrers, replies and complaints.
Disbursements, expenses
And partial defenses,
Ejectments, replevins, distraints;

Estoppels, restrictions,
Constructive evictions,
Agreements implied and express.
Accountings, partitions,
Estates and commissions,
Incumbrances, fraud and duress.

Above are essentials,
The best of credentials
Required - and handsome physique.
Make prompt application,
Will pay compensation
Of seventeen dollars a week.


  • Grimm, Jacob, Von der Poesie im Recht (1816)
  • Help Wanted by Franklin Waldheim
  • Macleish, Archibald, Apologia, 85 Harvard Law Review 1505 (1978)
  • Original idea for Poetic Justice by Zoë Duhaime.