Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BAR, by LEVI BISHOP



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THE BAR, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: When bards the lybian desert sing
Last Line: And final judgment close the scene.
Subject(s): Life; Nations; Truth


I.

When bards the Lybian desert sing,
And thence the fragrant breeze invoke;
Then flowers of poesy may spring,
From barren Tidd and quaintly Coke.

II.

Say ye, of active life and strong,
Ye who have toiled severe and long;
Ye who have stood and nobly stand,
The first of this forensic band;
Is there in life in all its stations,
In all its varied occupations --
Is there a calling, yea or no,
That taxes like it here below?

III.

A new herculean task each litigation;
New facts, new law, or new in application.
The work is long, the toil is ever dreary;
The goal has charms, the way is ever weary.
Explore we must in books however musty;
No precedent ignore however rusty;
Pursue an endless round of technic drudgery,
And wisdom seek beneath a load of fudgery.

IV.

How many quickly turn astray,
Unable to endure the pain;
How many falter in the way,
With over-loaded, shattered brain.

V.

Ye anxious student, would ye gladly learn,
Why some by magic skill, can always turn
To good account, full all they chance to know,
And vastly more? Why every reckless blow
They random give, brings on them as by stealth,
A dazzling fame, and wide renown, and wealth?
And why so oft, as chance of two is equal,
And both are eager for the golden sequel,
The one is sure to bear away,
While scorning all digression,
The glories of a doubtful day,
In this our law profession?
And this perhaps by merest play,
Or cool "adverse possession;"
Or, as may sneering rival say,
By reckless, bold aggression?
And why on one alone shall swell,
The popular applauses?
'Tis simple all, so fame would tell --
'Tis that he gains his causes.
The other may as well retire,
To any place he chooses;
In law, 'tis useless to aspire,
Because he always loses.
Or if he chance to gain a case,
At heavy -- double, treble cost,
He does it with so bad a grace,
The crowd believe that he has lost.

VI.

Behold that something all can see --
That off-hand manner, always free,
Yet full of shrewdest guile:
In proper place, the smile, the pun;
The serious air, the touch of fun;
The happy lawyer style.
Nor can success be well foreseen;
The future is behind a screen,
Like range of future life;
The man himself must lift the veil;
In difficulties never quail;
The proof is in the strife.

VII.

But why is failure seen so oft,
Where culture, education,
In nothing end, or end in soft
Professional negation?
The reason plain, or plain may seem,
That causes this vexation;
Nor need it wound the self-esteem,
'Tis want of adaptation.
Here influence, and taste refined,
And wealth, and graces well combined,
May dance around ambition;
If adaptation want, beware;
See disappointment written there;
He lacks the one condition.

VIII.

Nor can this work discouragement, I ween;
For whose conceit at blooming, bright eighteen;
Does not in self, in mighty self detect,
A wondrous prodigy of intellect?
The tyro can in modest rival trace,
The failure and professional disgrace;
While yet he deems himself a chosen star,
To rise and blaze and glitter from afar.
And thus the way is open, free to all;
Ambition rings aloud the stirring call;
And well the noble mind may try it:
Let all aspire, and let him win who can;
But let the race bespeak the worthy man:
Dread ye a failure? No; defy it.

IX.

The law profession; worthy field!
A truly noble calling!
When vice it shuns and does not yield,
To pettifoggers' bawling.
When aspirations run not low,
E'en in degenerate day:
Nor oft succeed les Chicaneaux,
Les Petits Jeans so gay.
When high its aim, not sorded pelf,
A virtuous power to wield,
It has for others and itself,
The helmet, sword, and shield.
Then boldly for the right it stands,
And throttles what is evil;
It strikes with honest men, the hands,
Nor fears to face the devil.

X.

And in a nation's worthy cause,
When agitation shakes the State,
The lawyer may proclaim the laws
Above the rage of factious hate.
His very life, the air he breathes,
Are law -- the vital form of right;
If wrong above the right he sees,
He for the law will boldly fight.
The advocate may quell the wrong,
May soothe the anguish, dry the tear;
Protect the weak against the strong,
And to the just his name endear.
And such a calling well may claim,
The mind and heart of gen'rous youth;
For then its practice is the same,
With love of justice, love of truth.

XI.

Nor this is all: reflective mind
May soar above material things;
May dash all sordid pelf behind,
And mount upon celestial wings.
Released from labors of the day,
The soul may tune the lyre and sing:
May gather flowers along the way;
May sip the clear Pierian spring.
It may be verse or measured prose,
It may be solemn, gay or witty;
And yet the muses well may close,
A heavy day of Kent or Chitty.

XII.

And is it true, perhaps ye ask,
That hours of lofty meditation,
May quiet crown the daily task,
And that as pleasant recreation?
Yea, doubt it not; apply the test:
As Logic drags the heavy hour,
Imagination, Fancy, rest,
Then spring in turn to active power.
Another force is brought in play,
That Logic may regain its might;
The powers of mind that dormant lay,
Are fresh for wing and lofty flight.
Though active mind, from daily round
Of endless toil, may weary be,
It springs elastic at the sound,
Of soul inspiring melody.
To Fancy's flight no bounds are set;
The richest fields before us lie,
Where thoughts may other thoughts beget,
In freely rolling reverie.

XIII.

Then let the man of law aspire,
His eyes upon the heavenly choir,
Till not a cloud shall intervene:
In mental culture never tire,
Till every dross shall feel the fire,
And final judgment close the scene.





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