Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.
“ALL POETS ARE MAD.”
So prosed Robert Burton (1577-1640) in his The Anatomy of Melancholy. Mr. Walter George Charles, the Charles in People v. Charles (1963) 223 Cal.App.2d 369, lends support to Mr. Burton’s insistence. Charles was accused, and convicted, of some seriously heinous crimes perpetrated against a victim, identified as “Martha,” about 10:15 p.m. on a mid-May night near a bus stop about four blocks from Martha’s house. Charles was assisted in his dastardly deeds by a toy gun which he had painted black. (He also had a postal change-of-address card on his person which bore the notation: “This is a holdup. Give me all the money and you won’t get hurt.”) The criminal particulars are troubling but not particularly scintillating. For purposes of this rhythmic report the only facts of note are that during the commission of the transgressions—and this according to Martha—during the course of his transgressions, Charles the Perpetrator “read some poetry he had written—he said he was a poet and a beatnik.” Oh, and he had “a heavy beard” and “sideburns.”
A GROOM MUST EXPECT MATRIMONIAL PANDEMONIUM
WHEN HIS SPOUSE FINDS HE'S GIVEN HER A CUBIC ZIRCONIUM
Boy (age 45—yes, forty-five) meets Girl (age 17). Sparks Fly! They date. (Boy provides Girl with “an apartment, an automobile, insurance, a weekly allowance,” etc.) Two years later Boy gives Girl a big@$$ engagement ring valued, per the financial statement attendant to the prenuptial agreement which Boy also gave her, at $21,000 (this is 1984). The Prenup is signed. The Connubial Knot is tied. A decade passes. Love fades. Boy and Girl separate. Girl discovers that the engagement diamond is a fake. During divorce proceedings she seeks to invalidate the prenuptial agreement due to fraud. If she had known (the Girl testified) that Boy “had given her a fake ring and lied about it, she would not have signed the ... agreement and ‘would not have married the man.’” Girl won in the Trial Court and won again in a Reviewing Court but lost in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. (Porreco v. Porreco No. 9 WAP 2001) (The introductory rhyming lines above are the beginning of an entirely poetical dissent penned by one of the Supreme Court Justices, a Mr. Eakin.)
♪♬ Although I’m so tired I’ll have another cigarette
And curse Sir Walter Raleigh
He was such a stupid get ♬♪
(J. Lennon “I’m So Tired")
Not only vilified since his death (almost 400 years ago) for his popularization of tobacco, Sir Walter Raleigh ran criminally afoul of the Powers That Be (Were) during his life time and served some time in the Tower of London. Truly a Renaissance man—alchemist, solider, courtier, privateer, explorer, author—his poetry is sometimes overlooked. Here’s a sample; his: “Song of Myself” —
I was a Poet! / But I did not know it ...
Aunt Sue / Said it was obviously untrue.
Uncle Ned / Said I was off my head ...
I am quite well-meaning,
But a lot of things always intervening /
Between / What I mean
And what it is said / I had in my head.
It is all very puzzling.
Uncle Ned / Says Poets need muzzling.
He might be right.
FREE LEGAL ADVICE
He was addressing poets, but attorneys might take Horace’s (from Arts Poetica) advice to heart when making opening or closing statements —
A poet should instruct, or please, or both;
Let all your precepts be succinct and clear,
That ready wits may comprehend them soon,
And faithful memories retain them long;
For superfluities are soon forgot.
Never be so conceited you’re your parts,
To thing you pay persuade us what you please.
John S. Spencer
SPENCER LAW FIRM
217 Second St. Sausalito CA 94965
PO Box 2300 Sausalito CA 94966 (mail)
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