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 300 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 those old woods a path was made.
And many men wound in and out,
And uttered words of righteous wrath,
Because ’twas such a crooked path.
But still they followed along that path
The first migrations of that calf,
Who through the winding woodway stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.
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 travelled 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.
Each day a hundred thousand, no doubt,
Followed this zig-zag calf about,
And over 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 a hundred years a day,
For thus 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 out and in, and forth and back,
And still their dubious 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 woods do laugh,
Who saw the first primeval path.
Ah, many a thing this tale might teach –
But then, I’m not ordained to preach!
Attributed to Edward Fudge