Samuel Johnson

My paper on Wills and Family Law is tomorrow. While perusing through cases, I came across the case of  Lam Kah Heng Jonathan and Another v Magdalene Lye Yoke Ching, where the judge, Loo Ngan Chor, ended his judgment on a will with a poem!

I am not familiar with the judge but if anyone does know his background, do let me know. I am definitely curious.

“It would be apposite for me to articulate a poetic if vicarious sigh by concluding with lines from Samuel Johnson’s poem “The Vanity of Human Wishes – The Tenth Satire of Juneval Imitated” which, though written about the turmoil of dynastic, political and territorial ambitions, captures my take on the flavour of the life that was the deceased’s (in the last lines of the poem) and the flavour of this litigation (in the first lines of the poem):

Let observation with extensive view,
Survey mankind, from China to Peru;
Remark each anxious toil, each eager strife,
And watch the busy scenes of crowded life;
Then say how hope and fear, desire and hate,
O’erspread with snares the clouded maze of fate,
Where wavering man, betrayed by venturous pride,
To tread the dreary paths without a guide,
As treacherous phantoms in the mist delude,
Shuns fancied ills, or chases airy good;
How rarely reason guides the stubborn choice,
Rules the bold hand, or prompts the suppliant voice

For love, which scarce collective man can fill;
For patience sovereign o’er transmuted ill;
For faith, that panting for a happier seat,
Counts death kind Nature’s signal of retreat:
These goods for man the laws of heaven ordain,
These goods he grants, who grants the power to gain;
With these celestial wisdom calms the mind,
And makes the happiness she does not find.”

Needless to say, I am very curious about the judge and whether his other judgments are similarly lyrical. However, thinking of it from the Singaporean typical plaintiff/defendant point of view, if I was the losing party, I might have been pretty annoyed with the judge quoting poetry after all my effort in the trial.

I am not so sure also if the case circumstances warranted so much sentiment.

Despite that, I do like Samuel Johnson and it was a pretty cool ending to come across.


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