The Goat Paths

By James Stephens

The crooked paths go every way
    Upon the hill—they wind about
        Through the heather in and out
Of the quiet sunniness.
And there the goats, day after day,
        Stray in sunny quietness,
Cropping here and cropping there,
        As they pause and turn and pass,
Now a bit of heather spray,
        Now a mouthful of the grass.

In the deeper sunniness,
        In the place where nothing stirs,
Quietly in quietness,
        In the quiet of the furze,
For a time they come and lie
Staring on the roving sky.

If you approach they run away,
        They leap and stare, away they bound,
        With a sudden angry sound,
To the sunny quietude;
        Crouching down where nothing stirs
        In the silence of the furze,
Crouching down again to brood
In the sunny solitude.

If I were as wise as they,
        I would stray apart and brood,
I would beat a hidden way
Through the quiet heather spray
        To a sunny solitude;
And should you come I’d run away,
        I would make an angry sound,
        I would stare and turn and bound
To the deeper quietude,
        To the place where nothing stirs
        In the silence of the furze.

In that airy quietness
        I would think as long as they;
Through the quiet sunniness
        I would stray away to brood
By a hidden, beaten way
        In a sunny solitude.

I would think until I found
        Something I can never find,
Something lying on the ground,
        In the bottom of my mind.


This poem is in the public domain.