THE FIRST TRANSITION PERIOD.
The child is father of the man.--Wordsworth
Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well.--Chesterfield
No one can cheat you out of ultimate success but yourself.--Emerson
A man cannot live a broad life if he runs only in one groove.
--J. Staples White
'Tis education forms the common mind,
Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined.--Pope
As the child grows into the youth the utmost care should be exercised,
both by himself and by his friends, to prevent the dwarfing of his
prospects by evil influences arising either from within or from without
The youthful period of man's life is by far the most important. No
subsequent training can entirely obliterate the results of early
impressions. They may be greatly modified; the character may be changed;
but some, and indeed many, of the impressions of youth will cling to the
It is in this period that the mind forms the ideas which will govern the
will throughout the whole career. Then is the twig bent to the direction
in which the tree will grow. The faintest whisperings of counsel are
eagerly caught, and the slightest direction instantaneously followed.
Then is the seed sown which will bring forth fruit in harvest time.
Bishop Vincent, writing about boyhood, says, "If I were a boy? Ah, if I
only were! The very thought of it sets my imagination afire. That 'if'
is a key to dreamland. First I would want a thorough discipline, early
begun and never relaxed, on the great truth of will force as the secret
of character. I would want my teacher to put the weight of
responsibility upon me; to make me think that I must furnish the
materials and do the work of building my own character; to make me think
that I am not a stick, or a stone, or a lump of putty, but a person.
That what I am in the long run, is what I am to make myself."
Boys and girls should early form a taste for good reading. In the choice
of books, as in the choice of friends, there is but one rule,--choose
the best. A witty gentleman, having received an invitation from a
wealthy but not very refined lady, on arriving was ushered into her
library, where she was seated surrounded by richly-bound books. "You
see, Mr. X.," she said, "I never need to be lonely, for here I sit
surrounded by my best friends." Without replying, the gentleman
approached a shelf and took down a volume which he perceived to be
uncut, and smilingly observed, "I am happy to find, madam, that unlike
the majority of people, you do not cut your friends."
Macaulay says, "I would rather be a poor man in a garret with plenty of
good books to read, than a king who did not love reading."
A boy ten years of age was seen to enter Westminster Abbey shortly
before evening prayers. Going straight up the main aisle he stopped at
the tomb of Charles Dickens. Then, looking to see that he was not
observed, he kneeled before the tombstone, and tenderly placed upon it a
bunch of violets. The little fellow hovered affectionately round the
spot for a few moments and went away with a happy, contented smile upon
his face. Curiosity led a gentleman present to examine the child's
offering, and this is what he found written in half-formed letters on an
envelope attached to the violets:--
"For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at
Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.--Christmas
The young person that loves books as this little fellow did, will have
friends that will unconsciously transform him into a great,
It is the thoughts of the boy that shape the future man. Garfleld, when
asked as a boy, what he was going to do when he grew up, would answer,
"First of all I am going to try to be a man. If I become that I shall be
fit for anything." To make the most of one's youth is to qualify one's
self to become a real man.
Some men, it is true, have been seemingly created by circumstances, and
have figured prominently in the world's history. But, as a general rule,
the child makes the man; and the foundation of all greatness and
usefulness is laid by the impressions of youth. "Alexander the Great
would not have been the conqueror of the world had his father not been
Philip of Macedon. Hannibal would not have been the scourge of the
Romans if Hamilcar had not sworn him to eternal vengeance against his
enemies. Napoleon Bonaparte would not have deluged Europe with blood,
if he had not been inspired by the genius of war from the pages of
Homer." And in our own days, those men whose early impressions were the
most favorable have been the most successful, both in their own lives,
and in their influence upon the world at large.
But it will not be enough to keep children during the season of youth
from the reach of improper associates and influences. The seed of right
principles must be diligently sown in their minds. Lessons of purity and
conscientiousness must be written deep on the tables of the heart.
Parental restraint is outward and visible, but the guiding principles of
life are inward and invisible. The day will come when the youth must
quit the parental roof, and perhaps entirely bid adieu to the influences
of home. If he be then destitute of right principles, if his mind be
like a ship without a rudder, he will stand in imminent danger of being
swept away by the waves of corruption.
Care should be taken to keep good company or none. No sensible person
will willingly keep bad horses or bad dogs. Should he be less particular
in selecting his companions? And yet, at this very point, some of life's
most cruel blunders are made.
A story is told of two parrots which lived near to each other. The one
was accustomed to sing songs, while the other was addicted to swearing.
The owner of the latter obtained permission for it to associate with the
former, in the hope that its bad habits would be corrected; but the
opposite result followed, for both learned to swear alike. This aptly
illustrates the usual effect of bad company, and no young man, however
strong he may imagine himself to be, can afford to be careless in this
In the forming of your friendships, be less anxious about social
standing, and more particular about character. Remember that President
Garfield used to say that he never passed a ragged boy in the street
without feeling that one day he might owe him a salute, No one knows
what possibilities of goodness and greatness are buttoned up under a
On the tomb of Schubert, the great musician, is written, "He gave much,
but promised more"; and it is this immeasurable wealth of promise that
makes the lives of our boys and girls so full of beauty and of power.