They passed beneath the College gate;
And down the High went slowly on;
Then spake the Undergraduate
To that benign and portly Don:
“They say that Justice is a Queen –
A Queen of awful Majesty –
Yet in the papers I have seen
Some things that puzzle me.
“A Court obscure, so rumour states,
There is, called ‘Vice-Cancellarii,’
Which keeps on Undergraduates,
Who do not pay their bills, a wary eye.
A case I’m told was lately brought
Into that tiniest of places,
And justice in that case was sought –
As in most other cases.
“Well! Justice as I hold, dear friend,
Is Justice, neither more than less:
I never dreamed it could depend
On ceremonial or dress.
I thought that her imperial sway
In Oxford surely would appear,
But all the papers seem to say
She’s not majestic here.”
The portly Don he made reply,
With the most roguish of his glances,
“Perhaps she drops her Majesty
Under peculiar circumstances.”
“But that’s the point!” the young man cried,
“The puzzle that I wish to pen you in –
How are the public to decide
Which article is genuine?
“Is’t only when the Court is large
That we for ‘Majesty’ need hunt?
Would what is Justice in a barge
Be something different in a punt?
“Nay, nay!” the Don replied, amused,
“You’re talking nonsense, sir! You know it!
Such arguments were never used
By any friend of Jowett.”
“Then is it in the men who trudge
(Beef-eaters I believe they call them)
Before each wigged and ermined judge,
For fear some mischief should befall them?
If I should recognise in one
(Through all disguise) my own domestic,
I fear ‘twould shed a gleam of fun
Even on the ‘Majestic’!”
The portly Don replied, “Ahem!
They can’t exactly be its essence:
I scarcely think the want of them
The ‘Majesty of Justice’ lessens.
Besides, they always march awry;
Their gorgeous garments never fit:
Processions don’t make Majesty –
I’m quite convinced of it.”
“Then is it in the wig it lies,
Whose countless rows of rigid curls
Are gazed at with admiring eyes
By country lads and servant-girls?”
Out laughed that bland and courteous Don:
“Dear sir, I do not mean to flatter –
But surely you have hit upon
The essence of the matter.
“They will not own the Majesty
Of Justice, making Monarchs bow,
Unless as evidence they see
The horsehair wig upon her brow.
Yes, yes! That makes the silliest men
Seem wise; the meanest men look big:
The Majesty of Justice, then,
Is seated in the WIG.”
– Lewis Carroll (March 1863)