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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

Advice to a Young Lawyer

By Joseph Story (1779–1845)

BE brief, be pointed; let your matter stand

Lucid in order, solid, and at hand;

Spend not your words on trifles, but condense;

Strike with the mass of thought, not drops of sense;

Press to the close with vigor, once begun,

And leave, (how hard the task!) leave off, when done.

Who draws a labored length of reasoning out,

Puts straws in line, for winds to whirl about;

Who drawls a tedious tale of learning o’er,

Counts but the sands on ocean’s boundless shore.

Victory in law is gained, as battles fought,

Not by the numbers, but the forces brought.

What boots success in skirmish or in fray,

If rout and ruin following close the day?

What worth a hundred posts maintained with skill,

If these all held, the foe is victor still?

He, who would win his cause, with power must frame

Points of support, and look with steady aim;

Attack the weak, defend the strong with art,

Strike but few blows, but strike them to the heart;

All scattered fires but end in smoke and noise,

The scorn of men, the idle play of boys.

Keep, then, this first great precept ever near,

Short be your speech, your matter strong and clear,

Earnest your manner, warm and rich your style,

Severe in taste, yet full of grace the while;

So may you reach the loftiest heights of fame,

And leave, when life is past, a deathless name.