Justice - (2010)
Paul Laurence Dunbar
medium or high voice and piano
Enthroned upon the mighty truth,
Within the confines of the laws,
True Justice seeth not the man,
But only hears his cause.
Unconscious of his creed or race,
She cannot see, but only weighs;
For Justice with unbandaged eyes
Would be oppression in disguise.
pages, circa 1' 50" ]
notion of justice has been bandied about after the advent of cultural
Marxism in the early twentieth century, morphed into various schemes under
the generalized banner of "social justice" and then had the bandage ripped
from the image of "blind justice" to be corrected -- by various political
perspectives -- into a kind of justice in which the cause is deeply colored
by political and historical revisionism. For this quotas have been applied
to decision making as enforced by laws and courts, and whole revolutionary
movements aimed at one group's historical and institutional racism,
sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia and a variety of other "causes" which have
served to overturn an individual's "cause" -- in Dunbar's sense -- in court.
Dunbar applauds blind justice, as do I.
setting came to be alongside reading the news of Russian President Dmitry
Medvedev's very clear statement that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
"cannot be called anything other than totalitarian." Given the many decades
when the public image of the Soviet Union has been held out by academics and
theorists as some kind of exemplary "social" state intent of justice applied
according to Marxist principles, this clear statement by the Russian
president must come as a shock -- perhaps even betrayal -- to those
wild-eyed advocates of ripping the bandages from blind justice for the sake
of their belief. Dunbar counsels us from a time when blacks were more
harshly treated than in the last decades, and yet in the United States the
black leadership cries for "social justice" in direct antithesis to this
poet's clear meaning.
setting on A minor with its included major seventh, a chord which serves to
underscore the entire first seven measures. Rising out of this through major
and minor subdominants comes the mention of "Justice" itself, as the texture
relaxes as impartial justice will "hear" man's cause. A second strophe opens
as does the first.
last line of the poem declares its meaning furiously, that justice stripped
of its blindfold becomes oppression. For the the setting erupts into martial
rhythm and half step dissonances to underscore both oppression and the speed
with which it can arise. As contrast and in resolution, the setting returns
to the last lines of the first stanza as the tonal change from minor to
major revisits Dunbar's clear statement about impartial justice.
The score for
Justice is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial
performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement
with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.