Clarence Darrow was comfortable using poetry in his arguments. He, like most other lawyers of that period, could quote literature, scripture and poetry as part of their trial skills. On July 21, 1924, the case of The People against Nathan Leopold, Jr., and Richard Loeb was heard in Detroit. Here’s one of the poems Darrow quoted in theirdefense by A.E. Housman (1859-1936) from A Shropshire Lad:
"Now hollow fires burn out to black,
And lights are guttering low:
Square your shoulders, lift your pack
And leave your friends and go.
O never fear, lads, naught’s to dread,
Look not to left nor right:
In all the endless road you tread
There’s nothing but the night."
When he argued in his own defense in his Los Angeles jury bribery case he was eloquent and, once again quoted poetry. Here is an excerpt from that argument:
"There are people who would destroy me. There are people who would lift up their hands to crush me down. I have enemies powerful and strong. There are honest men who misunderstand me and doubt me, and still I have lived a long time on earth, and I have friends–I have friends in my old home who have gathered around to tell you as best they could of the life I have lived. I have friends who have come to me here to help me in my sore distress. I have friends throughout the length and breadth of the land, and these are the poor and the weak and the helpless, to whose cause I have given voice. If you should convict me, there will be people to applaud the act. But if in your judgment and your wisdom and your humanity, you believe me innocent, and return a verdict of not guilty in this case, I know that from thousands and tens of thousands and yea, perhaps of the weak and the poor and the helpless throughout the world, will come thanks to this jury for saving my liberty and my name.
Life is a game of whist. From unknown sources The cards are shuffled and the hands are dealt. Blind are our efforts to control the forces That though unseen are no less strongly felt I do not like the way the cards are shuffled, But still I like the game and want to play And through the long, long night, I play unruffled The cards I get until the break of day.
I’ve always loved poetry and there have been few trials where poetry was not used by me. One of my favorite is the poem by James W. Foley, which I used in my last trial. Part of it reads:
Drop a pebble in the water: just a splash, and it is gone;
But there’s half-a-hundred ripples circling on and on and on,
Spreading, spreading from the center, flowing on out to the sea.
And there is no way of telling where the end is going to be.
Drop a pebble in the water: in a minute you forget,
But there’s little waves a-flowing, and there’s ripples circling yet,
And those little waves a-flowing to a great big wave have grown;
You’ve disturbed a mighty river just by dropping in a stone.