The Crooked Footpath

AH, here it is! the sliding rail
That marks the old remembered spot,--
The gap that struck our school-boy trail,--
The crooked path across the lot.

It left the road by school and church,
A pencilled shadow, nothing more,
That parted from the silver-birch
And ended at the farm-house door.

No line or compass traced its plan;
With frequent bends to left or right,
In aimless, wayward curves it ran,
But always kept the door in sight.

The gabled porch, with woodbine green,--
The broken millstone at the sill,--
Though many a rood might stretch between,
The truant child could see them still.

No rocks across the pathway lie,--
No fallen trunk is o'er it thrown,--
And yet it winds, we know not why,
And turns as if for tree or stone.

Perhaps some lover trod the way
With shaking knees and leaping heart,--
And so it often runs astray
With sinuous sweep or sudden start.

Or one, perchance, with clouded brain
From some unholy banquet reeled,--
And since, our devious steps maintain
His track across the trodden field.

Nay, deem not thus,--no earthborn will
Could ever trace a faultless line;
Our truest steps are human still,--
To walk unswerving were divine!

Truants from love, we dream of wrath;
Oh, rather let us trust the more!
Through all the wanderings of the path,
We still can see our Father's door!

by Oliver Wendell Holmes

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