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John Stuart Mill

by Brandon Robshaw

Oh John, John Stuart, John Stuart Mill –
reading your work is like climbing a hill:
it’s hard and demands both effort and skill;
one feels the increasingly rarefied chill
as one labours one’s way up that logical hill:
those orotund sentences, swelling to fill
paragraphs, pages: so hard to distil
into quotable morsels. It’s overkill.

Your writing is free from fancy and frill,
with the care and precision befitting a will
or a deed or a contract or codicil
written on parchment with antique quill.
With every phrase you aim to instil
some subtle idea or distinction, until
one feels that one’s mind has supped its fill –
if one reads any more, the contents will spill.

And yet, John Stuart, John Stuart Mill,
Believe me I bear you no atom of ill;
it’s worth it to climb that precipitous hill.
The view from the top gives a wonderful thrill.

© Brandon Robshaw 2021

Brandon Robshaw lectures in philosophy for the Open University. His book Should a Liberal State Ban the Burqa? was published by Bloomsbury in 2020. He has also written a philosophical novel for Young Adults, The Infinite Powers of Adam Gowers (Unbound, 2018).

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