The lawyer’s lament

[There is no] lawyer’s Paradise where all words have a fixed, precisely ascertained meaning…

—James Bradley Thayer (1898)

Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.

—T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton (1936)

Thayer reminds me of the Coolio song, Gangsta’s Paradise: “Been spendin’ most their lives / Livin’ in the gangsta’s paradise…” The first words of the Thayer quote, which are usually paraphrased away, reinforce my mental connection: “The Chief Justice here retires into that lawyer’s Paradise…”