It grew until the State was paralyzed.
It turned all objects into evidence
All former events into precedents.
It ate all it found and stored it up
Until the dispute reached such dimension
It spilled out of courtrooms into streets
Divided people into two parties,
Those of the first, those of the second parts.
And the horse itself was long since dead
When that issue was finally resolved:
Adherents of the party of the first part
Seized weapons and fell upon their enemies
And slew them all, man and woman and child,
All who rooted for that opposing team,
The glorious party of the second part.
It left the realm weak and depopulated
When the barbarian hordes at last arrived.
Pause here a moment, said Marguerite,
For I'm familiar with the case that you cite.
To my knowledge the lawsuit still proceeds,
Without bloodshed, without barbarians.
You're right, Marguerite. That last part,
Now that I reflect, was never spoken.
Strike it from whatever records you keep,
For it shouldn't stand, I'll freely admit,
Even as paraphrase of exact words
That now retreat, recede into murk.
It was, instead, a circuit kicking in,
Overwriting history with prophecy,
Introducing extra dispensations
To keep God's grace forever incomplete.
And this is what prophets often confuse,
Foretellings already done with, fulfilled,
And those that never happened, never will,
And those still pending, postponed awhile.
King Quintus too was not satisfied
And told the man who held the file in hand:
Neither horse nor case are relevant here.
Just read out the wiretap evidence,
The part where the pair of scoundrels conspire.
The official began reading from the file
A conversation between two persons,
One a surveyor, the other a wizard,
Collected, it appeared, without their consent,
Recorded, transcribed, and now repeated.
The surveyor, it appeared, was first to speak.
For three-eighths of a camel, he announced,
I will testify in court under oath
To support your claim on where the line runs.
What? said the warlock. Is my claim false?
Yes, said surveyor. The dolmen was moved.
Nothing is concealed from trigonometry.
And courts here are severe with any man
Who angles off from the long-established truths.
They punish all those who superimpose
Their own imaginary lines for mine.
There's no way your perfidy can persist
Unless that surveyor who drew the line
Perjures himself and reports faked results.
This would cost you the three-eighths of a camel.
This suggestion appalls, the wizard said.
Your price, you criminal, is far too high.
I'll offer one quarter of one camel.
Get lost, said the other. For three-eighths
You get sincere, trustworthy falsehood,
For I am, mister, a master surveyor.
For one-quarter, hire yourself a novice
Who blushes and stammers when he repeats lies
And who still confuses cosines with sines.
Liber Jonae Contents