(Written for THE PORTFOLIO SOCIETY, October 1861.)
The yellow poplar-leaves came down
And like a carpet lay,
No waftings were in the sunny air
To flutter them away;
And he stepped on blithe and debonair
That warm October day.
"The boy," saith he, "hath got his own,
But sore has been the fight,
For ere his life began the strife
That ceased but yesternight;
For the will," he said, "the kinsfolk read,
And read it not aright.
"His cause was argued in the court
Before his christening day,
And counsel was heard, and judge demurred,
And bitter waxed the fray;
Brother with brother spake no word
When they met in the way.
"Against each one did each contend,
And all against the heir.
I would not bend, for I knew the end -
I have it for my share,
And nought repent, though my first friend
From henceforth I must spare.
"Manor and moor and farm and wold
Their greed begrudged him sore,
And parchments old with passionate hold
They guarded heretofore;
And they carped at signature and seal,
But they may carp no more.
"An old affront will stir the heart
Through years of rankling pain,
And I feel the fret that urged me yet
That warfare to maintain;
For an enemy's loss may well be set
Above an infant's gain.
"An enemy's loss I go to prove,
Laugh out, thou little heir!
Laugh in his face who vowed to chase
Thee from thy birthright fair;
For I come to set thee in thy place:
Laugh out, and do not spare."
A man of strife, in wrathful mood
He neared the nurse's door;
With poplar-leaves the roof and eaves
Were thickly scattered o'er,
And yellow as they a sunbeam lay
Along the cottage floor.
"Sleep on, thou pretty, pretty lamb,"
He hears the fond nurse say;
"And if angels stand at thy right hand,
As now belike they may,
And if angels meet at thy bed's feet,
I fear them not this day.
"Come wealth, come want to thee, dear heart,
It was all one to me,
For thy pretty tongue far sweeter rung
Than coinèd gold and fee;
And ever the while thy waking smile
It was right fair to see.
"Sleep, pretty bairn, and never know
Who grudged and who transgressed:
Thee to retain I was full fain,
But God, He knoweth best!
And His peace upon thy brow lies plain
As the sunshine on thy breast!"
The man of strife, he enters in,
Looks, and his pride doth cease;
Anger and sorrow shall be to-morrow
Trouble, and no release;
But the babe whose life awoke the strife
Hath entered into peace.