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The Calf Path

By Sam Walter Foss (1896)
Illustrations © Copyright 1958, The Ben Graham Corporation. All rights reserved.

Links may be established to this poem.

The Calf Path

One day through the primeval wood
a calf walked home as good calves should;
but made a trail all bent askew,
a crooked trail as calves all do.
Since then three hundred years have fled,
and I infer the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
and thereby hangs my moral tale.
The trail was taken up next day
by a lone dog that passed that way;
and then a wise bellwether sheep
pursued the trail o'er vale and steep
and drew the flock behind him, too
as good bellwethers always do.
And from that day, o'er hill and glade,
through these old woods a path was made.
And many men wound in and out,
and dodged and turned and bent about,
and uttered words of righteous wrath
because 'twas such a crooked path;
but still they followed…do not laugh,
the first migrations of that calf.
This forest path became a lane,
that bent and turned and turned again.
This crooked lane became a road,
where many a poor horse with his load
toiled on beneath the burning sun
and traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
they trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet;
the road became a village street;
And this, before men were aware,
a city's crowded thoroughfare.
And soon the central street was this
of a renowned metropolis,
and men two centuries and a half
trod in the footsteps of that calf.
A hundred thousand men were led
by one calf near three centuries dead.
For men are prone to go it blind
along the calf-paths of the mind

and work away from sun to sun
to do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
and out and in, and forth and back,
and still their devious course pursue,
to keep the path that others do.
They keep the path a sacred groove
along which all their lives they move,
but how the wise old wood gods laugh
who saw the first primeval calf!

and work away from sun to sun
to do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
and out and in, and forth and back,
and still their devious course pursue,
to keep the path that others do.
They keep the path a sacred groove
along which all their lives they move,
but how the wise old wood gods laugh
who saw the first primeval calf!


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The Ben Graham Corporation. All rights reserved.