This 19th century song for law students is a bit racist

The competitive nature of law students – and their dislike of exams – is nothing new, as this song from 1882 shows.

Published in a Scottish book of lawyers’ ballads, the song ‘Crossing the Rubicon’ is written from the perspective of a lawyer at the start of his career wondering whether his working life will be glorious or unremarkable.

To be honest, the song gets quite racist in the middle, where the author wonders if he will rise high in the profession or if his “sad fortune” will be to dispense justice to the natives of the British colonies in Jamaica or Ceylon [Sri Lanka].

Equally disappointing would be to end up in “a region forlorn and remote” such as “Lerwick, Lochmaddy or Stornoway, where life is not worth half a groat.

The last verse acknowledges lawyers’ competitive nature but argues that they should work hard and be thankful for whatever fate brings them in their careers.

Other songs in the book include tributes to well-known (though now obscure) lawyers of the age, a wry tribute to the health of the Scottish Bar, and a piece called ‘The Successful Counsel,’ charting a star advocate’s transformation from genius to has-been once he becomes a judge.