Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, November 21, 2014

Strange encounters of the literary kind


Vic Fleming

The main character in this column is the Bard himself, Willie Shakespeare. So, if you’re anti-poetry, see ya!

This is a recycle, even though I’m not on vacation this week. As I wrote in June 1995, “With a deadline every week, I occasionally find it necessary to tell a story only because it cries out to be told.

“And, as always, the story is true. Moreover, it bears (tangentially, at least) on a universal issue. That is, ongoing proof to my mother that my college tuition (majoring in English and all) was worth every penny.”

Here’s the rest of that column from nineteen-and-a-half years ago:

The lawyer was getting onto the elevator from his floor, near the top of a 40-story building. As the door opened, he noticed that occupants of a higher floor were already aboard – a learned, appellate federal judge with four of his staff members.

As the lawyer got on, he noticed that one of the clerks appeared to be working on the judge’s lapel, pulling a loose thread or some such. Having a quick wit, the judge greeted the lawyer, “Pardon my tailor, Counselor.” Whereupon, the following dialogue ensued:

Lawyer: I didn’t realize that this was the alterations elevator.

Judge:      . . . Love is not love 

    Which alters not when it alteration finds.

Lawyer:  Or bends with the remover to remove. 

    Oh, no, it is an ever fixed mark 

    That looks on tempests and is never shaken.

Judge:     It is the star to ev’ry wandering bark

    Whose worth’s unknown although his height be taken. 

Lawyer:  Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

    Within his bending sickle’s compass come.

    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks

Judge:     But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

    And if this be error and on me proved,

Lawyer:  I never writ and no man ever loved.

Judge:     Sonnet one hundred fourteen?

Lawyer:  One sixteen, actually.

Judge:     Ah, yes.

To the others on the elevator car, standing agape as it reached ground level, the lawyer said, “When your family asks what you did today, you can say that you listened to a judge and a lawyer reciting Shakespeare on an elevator.”

An unidentified passenger in the corner was heard to mutter, “Going down!”

The judge had no way to know that his Shakespearean snippet playing off the word alteration would register with the lawyer at all, let alone call to mind the only sonnet he’d ever memorized. What are the odds that anyone, anywhere, ever in time, would feed him an opening to recite a portion of his wedding vows from 22 years earlier?

The missing line and a half from the lawyer-judge colloquy, if it may be called that, go like this:

                Let me not to the marriage of true minds

               Admit impediments: 

And, in truth, only lines 2B through 12 were used in the wedding.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.