Robert William Service

16 January 1874 - 11 September 1958 / Preston

The Prisoner

Upspoke the culprit at the bar,
Conducting his own case:
'Your Lordship, I have gone to far,
But grant me of your grace.
As I was passing by a shop
I saw my arm go out,
And though I begged of it to stop,
It stole beyond a doubt.

'But why should my whole body be
Condemned to dungeon grim,
For what in fact was only the
Transgression of a limb?
So here before the Court I stand,
And beg in Justice' name:
Please penalise my arm and hand,
But not my frame.'

Outspoke the Judge with voice of ice,
Although a smile he hid:
'Quite right! You should not pay the price
For what one member did.
Your reasoning I must admit;
Your arm should gaol expect . . .
Three months! And if you follow it
The Court does not object.'

The culprit smiled with sudden charm,
Then to the Court's dismay,
Quickly removed a wooden arm
And went away.
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