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
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
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