The Majesty of Justice

Author: Lewis Carroll  | Date: 1863

AN OXFORD IDYLL

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."

March 1863.

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Chicago: Lewis Carroll, The Majesty of Justice Original Sources, accessed February 27, 2021, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5ZV7QGBMVB87ZYJ.

MLA: Carroll, Lewis. The Majesty of Justice, Original Sources. 27 Feb. 2021. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5ZV7QGBMVB87ZYJ.

Harvard: Carroll, L, The Majesty of Justice. Original Sources, retrieved 27 February 2021, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=5ZV7QGBMVB87ZYJ.