Strife and Peace
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 weld 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 coined 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.
Jean Ingelow’s other poems:
- The Measureless Gulfs Of Air Are Full Of Thee
- The Maid-Martyr
- Sweet Are His Ways Who Rules Above
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