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The Majesty of Justice

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Historia/Shutterstock (9805077a) Cartoon the Undertaker's Arms (after Hogarth) Endum Non Mendum Depicting the Imagined Demise of the House of Lords. A Bill Had Been Put Forward to Abolish the Upper House But Was not Successful. . Cartoon by Francis Carruthers Gould in 'Christmas Numer' - 'Truth Christmas Number', 25 December 1894, P19 Cartoon, the Undertaker's Arms, 1894

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)

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