Jack Balkin: jackbalkin at yahoo.com
Bruce Ackerman bruce.ackerman at yale.edu
Ian Ayres ian.ayres at yale.edu
Corey Brettschneider corey_brettschneider at brown.edu
Mary Dudziak mary.l.dudziak at emory.edu
Joey Fishkin joey.fishkin at gmail.com
Heather Gerken heather.gerken at yale.edu
Abbe Gluck abbe.gluck at yale.edu
Mark Graber mgraber at law.umaryland.edu
Stephen Griffin sgriffin at tulane.edu
Jonathan Hafetz jonathan.hafetz at shu.edu
Jeremy Kessler jkessler at law.columbia.edu
Andrew Koppelman akoppelman at law.northwestern.edu
Marty Lederman msl46 at law.georgetown.edu
Sanford Levinson slevinson at law.utexas.edu
David Luban david.luban at gmail.com
Gerard Magliocca gmaglioc at iupui.edu
Jason Mazzone mazzonej at illinois.edu
Linda McClain lmcclain at bu.edu
John Mikhail mikhail at law.georgetown.edu
Frank Pasquale pasquale.frank at gmail.com
Nate Persily npersily at gmail.com
Michael Stokes Paulsen michaelstokespaulsen at gmail.com
Deborah Pearlstein dpearlst at yu.edu
Rick Pildes rick.pildes at nyu.edu
David Pozen dpozen at law.columbia.edu
Richard Primus raprimus at umich.edu
K. Sabeel Rahmansabeel.rahman at brooklaw.edu
Alice Ristroph alice.ristroph at shu.edu
Neil Siegel siegel at law.duke.edu
David Super david.super at law.georgetown.edu
Brian Tamanaha btamanaha at wulaw.wustl.edu
Nelson Tebbe nelson.tebbe at brooklaw.edu
Mark Tushnet mtushnet at law.harvard.edu
Adam Winkler winkler at ucla.edu
Here's a toast to Jack Balkin who 5 years ago had the foresight to create Balkinization and who has nurtured it with such loving care all these years.
I drafted this post (about "The Long Black Veil") a while back, but never quite had the nerve to put up... what better way than with a reinterpretation of a song to celebrate Jack's contribution to our worlds. I’ve always loved the song, “The Long Black Veil.” But I’ve also been troubled by the chorus’s claim: “Nobody knows, nobody sees, Nobody knows but me.” Is it a claim that “nobody knows that she cries over my bones,” or a claim that “nobody knows that I remained silent to protect her”? The latter can’t literally be true. She also knows. It also can’t be a claim “nobody knows that they hung an innocent man.” Because the guilty party would probably know that they tagged someone else for the crime.
Well, as I was driving across I70 in Missouri last fall, I heard the song again on the radio. As if in a Jungian dream, the words of a long-lost 4th verse came to me. Here's the entire song with the additional verse:
Ten years ago, on a cold dark night Someone was killed, 'neath the town hall light The people who saw, they all agreed That the man who killed, looked a lot like me
The judge said son, what’s your alibi If you were somewhere else, then you won't have to die I spoke not a word, thou it cost me my life For I'd been in the arms of my best friend's wife
Chorus She walks these hills in a long black veil She visits my grave when the night winds wail Nobody knows, nobody sees Nobody knows but me
The scaffold is high, eternity's near She stood in the crowd and shed not a tear But late at night, when the north wind blows In a long black veil, she cries over my bones
One more person knows how this story ends: the man who killed was my best friend. He borrowed my coat and disguised his cheek, ‘Cause he knew to protect my love, I would not speak.
She walks these hills in a long black veil She visits my grave when the night winds wail (Almost) Nobody knows, (almost) nobody sees (Almost) Nobody knows but me.
To my mind, the song’s even more interesting if the best friend is lurking in the shadows with a bit more information that is not common knowledge. Of course, the hint of the friend’s knowledge is already there, because there’s some chance he’d at least know that his wife was sometimes sneaking off at night in a long black veil.
Coming from the JNiles generation in some measure, I preserved a liking for the spiritualized female rendering of that serial song in the JBaez version, which likely is a tale of Joan in the Garden, or, perhaps, reflecting on the mystery of isolation.
When adapting a song to a new verse (as when interpreting a law in new circumstances) one should respect the meter (or principle) of the original. I think even a new originalist like JB would agree. Congratulations on 5 years of Balkinization, and a satisfying resolution to the ballad.
There's one more man knows this story's end: The man who killed was my own best friend. He borrowed my coat and disguised his cheek, ‘Cause he knew for my love, I would not speak.