Golden Days for Boys and Girls was a children’s paper which ran from 1880 to 1897. Its issues included poems in addition to stories, puzzles, and advertisements. We previously covered a poem which appeared in its May 21, 1887 issue, The Blind Girl and the Spring by Sydney Gray. Today, we turn to the November 28, 1891 issue of the paper to look at George Birdseye’s Be Sure How You Begin, where he took the proverb “When once begun the work is half done” and turned it into a poem which concluded with a moral about growing up well.

A photograph of high school students working on copper from a 1906 book titled "Copper Work: A Text Book for Teachers and Students"
This photograph is from Copper Work: A Text Book for Teachers and Students (1906). The poem itself did not come with an illustration, but I think that this photograph suits it well.

I looked for information about the poet, George Birdseye. It is easy enough to find examples of Birdseye’s poetry on the web, and a search for his name on the Elephind newspaper search engine reveals that he was published often in national and regional papers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, I found little about his life other than that he was born in 1844 and died in 1919.

“Be Sure How You Begin” — by George Birdseye

         "When once begun,
      The work's half done,"
So says the proverb old;
      But even here,
      You'll see it clear,
The truth is but half told;
      For wisdom says
      There are two ways,
One loses and one wins;
      You'll find, young friends,
      That all depends
Upon how one begins.

      If wrong begun
      And work half done,
So much the worse for you;
      If right—go on
      Until you've won
The goal you had in view.
      In life you gaze
      Upon the ways
Of virtue and of sin;
      Be led by truth,
      And in your youth
Be sure how you begin.