From Brouhahas to Brehon Laws: Poetic Impulse in the Law

Law and Humanities, Vol. 4, pp. 21-61, 2010

42 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2011 Last revised: 16 Mar 2013

Date Written: 2010

Abstract

Over the ages and across the lands, poetry and the law have come together in courtroom and classroom, jointly debuted in judicial decisions and dissents, and emerged as one in systems as diverse as the Courts of Equity and the law of the brehons - the poet-judges of ancient Ireland. Lyrical language and the poetic impulse have thus helped to inform, persuade, and advance the law.

Under the literary conceit of a time travel, I consider the persistence of poetry in law and respond to the artistic expression of devotees and the commentary of critics. Manifestations of the poetic impulse include poetry as ornament to legal argument, judgments written in poetic form (hence the brouhahas), and the use in law of metre, metaphor, imagination, ambiguity, alliteration, and rhyme. The role of poetry in legal education, from Coke's Reports in Verse to law school haiku, is also traversed. Accompany me on my journey through the legal ages and hear the case for a continued, albeit cautious, role for poetry-in-law.

Keywords: law and literature, poetry, verse, legal language, legal education, brehon law

Suggested Citation

Kleefeld, John Charles, From Brouhahas to Brehon Laws: Poetic Impulse in the Law (2010). Law and Humanities, Vol. 4, pp. 21-61, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1937496

John Charles Kleefeld (Contact Author)

University of New Brunswick ( email )

PO Box 4400
41 Dineen Drive
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5A3
Canada
+1 506 453 4635 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.unb.ca/kleefeld.html

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