Law, like love?

This morning I experienced a frustration at my job, which I normally thoroughly enjoy; but today… today’s news from an outside counsel was very irritating. With respect to one of our cases, a local judge did not follow a precedent already sent in the law. The actual source of my frustration, you ask? Judges swear – they take an oath – to distribute justice based on the law, so when one is elected and gives preference to a firm that lines his campaign pockets, where is the justice? Why isn’t the law just the law?

A friend of mine recently introduced me to the writings of WH Auden. My situation this morning made me recall a poem Auden wrote in 1939 that I thought worth sharing. I guess there really isn’t anything new under the sun…


I found an insight into this poem that really made me see where Auden was going with Law and Love piece. I cannot sum it up better than this next writer, so I will post part of the summary and link to the website. I needed this insight to get me past the irritation of the news I received today.

Kudos to this person for a very insightful view of Auden’s words here:

“People may claim “That the law is / And that all know this,” but specifying it is more difficult than people think. In the long transitional stanza from the subject of law to the subject of love, the poem suggests that “we, dear, know we know no more / Than they,” all of those above, “about the law.” But what really seems to guide people’s idea of law is their own prejudices or selfishness or, to say it more politely, their loves. They “identify Law with some other word.” Philosophically the challenge is to “slip out of our own position / Into an unconcerned condition,” as Kant might approve.

Perhaps this kind of objectivity is impossible for most people, or all people, even if it would be moral and desirable. Perhaps, like it or not, law is like love. This is how the poem concludes, with an AABB quatrain with the repeated opening “Like love we …” all four times. Law, it seems, is like love in that we do not really know where it comes from or where it is taking us. It does not really compel us, and yet we cannot escape it (“fly” as in “flee”). Both law and love make us weep because we cannot freely get and keep what we want. And despite our promises, we “seldom” obey the law or remain true to what we love.”  (


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