My youngest son sat his entrance exam for secondary school today. OK he doesn’t actually enter secondary school until next September. But it still feels like a milestone. The deed is done, the exam is taken. There is nothing further significant that he must achieve this year in his final year in Primary School. In May he will be a teenager and, in one of the new rites of passage of our modern world, he will be eligible for a Facebook Page.
I always like to pause at milestones like this and take account. What advice do I give a young gentleman embarking on a new chapter. OK, he may be a little young for Polonius’s advice to Laertes, but it is worth a recall. What I don’t get is why people think this is ironic. It is all good stuff!
Yet here, Laertes? Aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail, And you are stay’d for.
There, my blessing with thee. And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion’s thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade.
Beware Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous, chief in that
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell. My blessing season this in thee!
Shakespeare: Hamlet, Act 1 Scene iii