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 all calves do.
Since then three hundred years have fled,
And I infer, the calf is dead;
But still behind he left this trail,
And thereon hangs my moral tale.
The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way,
And then a wise bell-weather sheep
Pursued that trail o’er dale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bell-weathers 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 follow–do not laugh–
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked,
Because he wobbled when he walked.
The forest 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 that burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The village road became a street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare.
And soon a central street was this
In a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Followed the wanderings of this calf.
Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed this zigzag calf about;
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one poor calf, three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For just such reverence is lent
To 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 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 in and out, and forth and back,
And still their devious paths pursue,
To keep the paths that others do.
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah! many things this tale might teach —
But I am not ordained to preach.