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Poem by Robert William Service


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.



Robert William Service


Robert William Service's other poems:
  1. The Reckoning
  2. Poet and Peer
  3. The Leaning Tower
  4. Old Crony
  5. Prelude (In youth I gnawed life's bitter rind)


Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Emily Brontë The Prisoner ("Still let my tyrants know, I am not doomed to wear")
  • Elizabeth Browning The Prisoner ("I count the dismal time by months and years")
  • Lucy Montgomery The Prisoner ("I lash and writhe against my prison bars")

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