Sam Walter Foss

Sam Walter Foss Poems

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.
...

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,
...

“The proper way for a man to pray”
said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
“and the only proper attitude
is down upon his knees.”
...

We've lived for forty years, dear wife,
And walked together side by side,
And you to-day are just as dear
As when you were my bride.
...

I

They met and they talked where the crossroads meet,
Four men from the four winds come,
...

THE TOWN of Hay is far away,
The town of Hay is far;
Between its hills of green and gray
Its winding meadows are.
...

'How is business?' asks the young man of the Spirit of the Years;
'Tell me of the modern output from the factories of fate,
...

The Man of Questions paused and stood
Before the Man of Toil,
And asked, 'Are you content, my man,
To dig here in the soil?
...

What is the world’s true Bible -- ‘tis the highest thought of man,
The thought distilled through ages since the dawn of thought began.
...

Men seem as alike as the leaves on the trees,
As alike as the bees in a swarming of bees
...

'There will be a war in Europe,
Thrones will be rent and overturned,'
('Go and fetch a pail of water,' said his wife).
...

If the century gone, as the wise ones attest,
Exceeds all the centuries before it,
Then the century coming will better its best
...

'Let us paint a landscape in June,' he cried;
'A Landscape in high June.'
And the poster-painter swelled with pride
And trilled a merry tune.
...

The trumpets were calling me over the hill,
And I was a boy and knew nothing of men;
But they filled all the vale with their clangorous trill,
...

Sam Walter Foss Biography

Sam Walter Foss was a librarian and poet whose works included The House by the Side of the Road and The Coming American. He was born in rural Candia, New Hampshire. Foss lost his mother at age four, worked on his father's farm and went to school in the winter. He graduated from Brown University in 1882, and would be considered illustrious enough to warrant having his name inscribed on the mace. Beginning in 1898, he served as librarian at the Somerville Public Library in Massachusetts. He married a minister's daughter, with whom he had a daughter and son. Foss used to write a poem a day for the newspapers, and his five volumes of collected poetry are of the frank and homely “common man” variety. Longtime baseball announcer Ernie Harwell alluded to one of Foss's poems whenever he described a batter taking a called third strike: "He stood there like the house by the side of the road and watched it go by." "Bring me men to match my mountains, Bring me men to match my plains, Men with empires in their purpose, And new eras in their brains." -- Sam Walter Foss, from "The Coming American", July 4, 1894 These words were inscribed on a granite wall at the United States Air Force Academy to inspire cadets and officers, but they were removed in 2003. He is buried in the North Burial Ground in Providence, Rhode Island.)

The Best Poem Of Sam Walter Foss

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 all calves do.

Since then two 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 bell-wether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale 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,
And through 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,
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 rout
Followed 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 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 devious course pursue,
To keep the path 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.

Sam Walter Foss Comments

Do you have information on the Sam Walter Foss poem, The Volunteer Organist? I see conflicting info on the dates - and confusion due to a ballad version written by Gray and Spaulding. Do you know which came first, and in which year Foss wrote (not necessarily published) it? Do you have any othe background info, different from Wikipedia?

1 0 Reply
Julianna Riley 05 March 2018

The House by the Side of the Road has been a favorite of mine for many years. As a lifelong observer of my fellow man, I find this poem a perfect description of what has drawn me to write stories about the foibles of humans.

2 0 Reply

Sam Walter Foss Popularity

Sam Walter Foss Popularity

Close
Error Success