Professor Fagan's Valete to the Class of 2010

21 Dec 2010 - 11:47

Final Year 2010

This being the last of several speeches this evening, I am under strict instructions to keep it short. This speech, in other words, is subject to a word limit.

Now, this graduating LLB-class knows something about word limits. In fact, they and I have a bit of a history regarding word limits.

To honour this history, I decided to subject my speech this evening to some additional limits of my own, some further formal restrictions - just to show that form matters, and that compliance with it is possible.

So I set about writing the speech as a series of limericks. For those who do not know this, a limerick is a poem with a rigid formal structure. It has five lines; the rhyme is aabba; and while the first, second and fifth lines have three feet each, the third and fourth lines have two feet each.

There wás a law cláss in year tén,
Loved Júris so múch that whén,
Their wórds were límited,
They were nót inhíbited,
So hád to write their éssays agáin.

But, having written this limerick, I thought: For one who really cares about form, the limerick is rather too generous. It has too many lines, too many words. What was needed was something rather more parsimonious.

So, I thought, what about the haiku? For those of you who do not know, a haiku is a poem of only three lines and only seventeen syllables - not words, syllables. And it typically contains a reference to a season.

So I set about writing some haikus. I should add that a haiku need not rhyme. But I thought that mine should - because, after all, form matters.

Haiku number 1 continues where the limerick left off:

Cruel to be kind,
The legal mind, in Cape Storm dressed,
Formalities stressed.

Haiku number 2 is for those of you who intend to squander your education by becoming hot-shot corporate lawyers, contributing little to the common weal, but a great deal to your pockets:

Educated, graduated.
By next summer,
Bought me a Hummer.

Haiku number 3 is for those of you who, by contrast, intend to use your legal talents to promote the public good:

Graduate, litigate.
With law, thaw . . .
Our rainbow - by vice turned to ice.

Finally, here is haiku number 4. It deals with the inevitable separation that graduation brings. It deals, in other words, with the things you will be leaving behind:

Summer's eve . . .
Glad to leave, part - from Raz, Hart.
Hey dude, ain't no jurisprude.