Raphael. Justice (ceiling tondo), ca.1509-1511. Fresco.
Vaticano, Stanza della Segnatura, Rome.
TO HIS HONOURED FRIEND, M. JOHN WEARE,
by Robert Herrick
DID I or love, or could I others draw|
To the indulgence of the rugged law,
The first foundation of that zeal should be
By reading all her paragraphs in thee,
Who dost so fitly with the laws unite,
As if you two were one hermaphrodite.
Nor courts thou her because she's well attended
With wealth, but for those ends she was intended :
Which were, and still her offices are known,
Law is to give to ev'ry one his own ;
To shore the feeble up against the strong,
To shield the stranger and the poor from wrong.
This was the founder's grave and good intent :
To keep the outcast in his tenement,
To free the orphan from that wolf-like man,
Who is his butcher more than guardian ;
To dry the widow's tears, and stop her swoons,
By pouring balm and oil into her wounds.
This was the old way ; and 'tis yet thy course
To keep those pious principles in force.
Modest I will be ; but one word I'll say,
Like to a sound that's vanishing away,
Sooner the inside of thy hand shall grow
Hisped and hairy, ere thy palm shall know
A postern-bribe took, or a forked fee
To fetter Justice, when she might be free.
Eggs I'll not shave ; but yet, brave man, if I
Was destin'd forth to golden sovereignty,
A prince I'd be, that I might thee prefer
To be my counsel both and chancellor.
Hisped (hispidus), rough with hairs.
Postern-bribe, a back-door bribe.
Forked fee, a fee from both sides in a case ; cp. Ben
Jonson's Volpone : Give forked counsel, take provoking
gold on either hand.
Eggs I'll not shave, a proverb.
Herrick, Robert. Works of Robert Herrick. vol I.
Alfred Pollard, ed.
London, Lawrence & Bullen, 1891. 253-254.
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