The Rhyme of the Elder Brother

I am the Elder Brother; you've heard of the Prodigal Son,
But little of me, I'll warrant, who stuck till the job was done,
While he was off carousing at Caesarea and Tyre
With dissolute dancing women to sound of tabour and lyre.
I am the Elder Brother; I brought the sheep to the fold
When, spite of the wool he carried, the black ram shivered with cold,
When frost gleamed white on the roof-tops as thick as a fall of snow
And the great, pale star of evening shone like a lamp hung low.
I am the Elder Brother; I worked till far in the night
To see that the cows were foddered and the horses bedded right;
The Boy, he took his portion and scattered it far and near, —
But I held on to my wages to buy more farminggear,
And I looked about for a woman, and married, and settled down
And kept so busy I've only gone twice of a year to town.
I am the Elder Brother; when HE came strolling back
I strove to send him packing to follow his former track,
Yes, I who had heaved and lifted along with the other men,
I urged the Old Man blackly to let him shift again. . . .
And ever I grew bitter to see that the right was done
To me, the Elder Brother in re the Prodigal Son,
And each plea knotted me harder, I stood as firm as a rock —
Till one day down in the village I heard a Young Man talk
(A queer young chap from somewhere ... folk said from Galilee)
Of God ... and Love ... and Brothers ... and He seemed to speak to me
As He told of the lost sheep straying far from the wonted track, —
For only that day, a fortnight, I brought one in on my back,
And I hadn't stopped to chide it, but I had carried it in —
And I saw I'd treated it better than my own blood and kin;
And I went back home, and was decent, and joined the lad at the fire
And I even enjoyed his stories, though I knew he was half a liar!
But I'd like to know what happened to the Lad who was young as he,
Who talked so plainly to people that He only spoke to me!
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