This Wordsworth statement perhaps means that the qualities exhibited by a child will deepen and appear in a marked form when the child grows up into a man. By observing and studying the behaviour, the inclinations, the preferences, the prejudices and the tendencies of child we can form an idea as to what sort of man he will develop into.
One’s childhood, therefore, may be taken as forming the basis of one’s manhood. It is in this sense that the child has been called the father of man.
The statement carries much sense. The biographies of several great men show that their character and achievements had appeared in their early childhood. An average child with no remarkable qualities will rarely develop into a remarkable man but a child with striking qualities will grow into one.
Napoleon in his childhood used to ‘play’ fighting and had great enthusiasm for mock-warfare. Later on, as everyone knows, he distinguished himself as one of the greatest military geniuses of the world. His childhood, therefore, showed unmistakable signs of the direction his mind subsequently took. Similarly, David Lingstone used to play exploring when he was still a boy.
Eventually he became one of the greatest explorers of the world. He penetrated into the thick, unexplored forests of Africa and discovered regions unvisited before. Father Damien evidenced a remarkable tenderness of heart as the distress of lepers. Florence Nightingale gave, early in her life, indications of her future course of life. Macaulay, as a love for words, later grew into a great writer.
Shivaji, who as a child was fond of listening to stories of valour and heroism, grew up into a warrior himself. Similarly, Clive and Nelson gave evidence in their boyhood of qualities which characterised them later as men. Examples are many.
It seems that the statement is true. Sometimes, no doubt, inborn talent may be suppressed through total neglect or misdirected training. Then the child may not get an opportunity to develop its natural bent of mind, but in the long run, native talent or aptitude for a particular work will definitely emerge and the man will achieve distinction in the sphere to which he properly belongs.
The parents should carefully watch the child and note his leanings so that if it displays a keen preference for a particular branch of knowledge, an inclination towards religion, an irrepressible intellectual curiosity, etc., they can, according, train and help it in growing to its natural bent of mind and temperament.