“The Calf-Path” – by Sam Walter Foss (A pre-series post)

[I am presently working on a series of posts: “Tradition, Scripture and the Church”.  I plan to post part one next week.   As an “appetizer” for that series, I’d like to share one of my favorite poems with you, “The Calf-Path”, by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911).
I first read this poem about ten years ago in the original publishing of Frank Viola’s book, Pagan Christianity.  (This book has since been updated and republished by Tyndale House with the input and co-authoring of George Barna.  If you haven’t ever read it, I encourage you to do so.  It is a well-researched, engrossing read on where we have gotten our present-day church practices from!  Very insightful!)  I have loved this poem ever since I first read it, for it speaks so winsomely to this matter of “tradition.”]

And now, without further ado…

~ ~ ~

The Calf-Path
by Sam Walter Foss

* * *

One day thru 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 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 bellweather sheep

Pursued the trail, o’er~vale and steep,

And drew the flock behind him too

As good bellweathers always do.

And from that day, o’er hill and glade

Thru 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.

And thru this winding wood-way 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 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,

The 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 100 thousand route

Followed the zig-zag calf about,

And o’er his crooked journey went

The traffic of a continent.

A 100 thousand men were led

By one calf, near three centuries dead.

They followed still his crooked way

And lost 100 years a day.

For thus such reverence is lent

To well establish 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 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 that first primeval calf.

Ah, many things this tale might teach,

But I am not ordained to preach.

* * *

To: Tradition, Scripture and the Church – Pt. 1: “Tradition and Scripture”

Further related:
The Stronghold of Traditionalism (#propheticresistance)
The Stronghold of Spiritual Eccentricity (#propheticresistance)

About David

Following Him who is the Way; learning of Him who is the Truth; living by Him who is the Life. - John 14:6
This entry was posted in Church History/Development, Creative Expressions and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to “The Calf-Path” – by Sam Walter Foss (A pre-series post)

  1. Tobie says:

    My favorite poem, along with John Godfrey Saxe’s The Blind Men and the Elephant (see http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_poems_of_John_Godfrey_Saxe/The_Blind_Men_and_the_Elephant)


  2. David Bolton says:

    Thanks, Tobie. We track well. That is also one of my wife’s and my favorite poems and often say to each other concerning Christ and the Church, “He’s a big elephant!” In the Creative Expressions section of my blog I’ve posted a number of poems that have been significant to me over the years. “The Blind Men and the Elephant” is there, as well as “The Calf-Path”, and a few others. I’m glad we have similar tastes and like spiritual passions!

    I would also commend to my readers a piece of creative writing that Tobie did called, “The Last Revival” that draws from a different analogy, but with similar themes (and a better ending!) You can access it here: http://naturalchurch.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/the-last-revival/



  3. Love this poem. Thanks, David.


  4. Pingback: A hagyomány, a Szentírás és a Gyülekezet 2. rész: „A hagyomány pszichológiai ereje” – David Bolton | keskeny út – narrow way

  5. Pingback: „Borjú-ösvény” – David Bolton and Sam Walter Foss | keskeny út – narrow way

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