The Child is the Father of Man – Origin, Meaning and Explanation

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The Child is the Father of Man – Origin, Meaning, and Explanation

Origin: The phrase ‘The Child is the father of Man” first appeared in a poem, ‘My Heart Leaps Up” by William Wordsworth in 1802.

Though the above phrase appears paradoxical, it contains important inner messages within it. Since 1802, this phrase has been used on several occasions as an idiomatic or proverbial phrase.

Meaning: The meaning of the proverb ‘The Child is the Father of Man” has been variously interpreted as follows:

  • the true nature of a person doesn’t change with time or age.
  • the conduct of a child indicates what he will become when he grows up.
  • an adult is the product of the habits, manners and behavior that he inculcated during his childhood.

Brief explanation: While using the phrase, Wordsworth has indicated that as a child he felt immense joy while looking at the rainbow, and as an adult he still experiences the same joyfulness and pleasure while looking at the rainbow in the sky. Thus, a thing of the past that delighted him when he was a kid, still delights him as an adult. And, he hopes that he would continue to get delighted with the beauty of nature.

Childhood shows the man as morning shows the day. Naturally what a child learns and assimilates will be reflected in his words and works in his later life. For example, if a person forms good habits right from his childhood, he will live a life of discipline. His life will be full of happiness. He will be an asset to the nation. Reversely, a boy who forms bad habits will harm the society at large.

Hence, the roles of home and school are vital for the proper exercise of virtues inherent in children. Children love imitation and learn by imitating others around him. So their seniors must try to inculcate in their young ones the sterling qualities of head and heart.

Teachings: The proverb ‘The Child is the Father of Man” teaches us the following:

  1. Childhood activities deeply influences the overall character of an adult.
  2. We should form good habits right from our childhood.
  3. Right conduct during early ages is as important as it is in other phases of life.
  4. The moral value that we learn during our early life, will remain with us all through our life.
  5. Deep within the heart of adults, there remain a small child, who wants to enjoy every moment of life with joy and happiness.

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