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A Favorite 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 path as all calves 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;
Ant then a wise bell-wether sheep
Pursued that trail o'er hill and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too
As good bell-wethers always do,
And from that day, o'er hill and glade
Through those 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.

The forest path became a lane
That bent and turned and turned again;
The crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse bore its 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 past 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.

Each day a hundred thousand shout
Following the zigzag calf about,
And o'er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred year a day;
For this such reverence was lent
To a well-established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach,
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf path of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track
And in and out 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!


Some comments:

When I first saw this at Great Lakes, I waa very young and intrigued by its implications. However, it trivializes all the work and efforts that people before us have done to make this a better world. Not everything people do is a calf path. But still it remains a favorite poem.