When he was fourteen, his father sent him to Liverpool as an apprentice to a cooper where he learned to make barrels. But the business failed within a year, and John came back home only to be sent to Penrith, a town further north in the Lakes District. There he was apprenticed to make furniture.
This new country was beautiful. Lush green woods surrounded the lakes nestled among rolling hills and green fields. Druid ruins (priestly shrines), timeworn and disintegrating among the trees, begged to be investigated by a young boy. As John tramped the forest, he found the place where the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the round table began.
Exploring brought him to the tall stone Pele towers that stood as lookouts, built to resist the plundering Scots of ages past. The ground floor of each tower housed animals. The kitchen was on the second floor, and the soldiers slept on the third level. A flat roof with protective battlement slits provided a place for the soldiers to launch their arrows.
Investigating the ruins, swimming in the lakes, and hiking the woods and the back roads gave John time to think about life and decide what he was to become. The splendor of his surroundings and the ancient ruins inspired and refined him.
John also loved to read. He studied the writers of his day. British literature abounded with great authors like Milton, Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott.
William Wordsworth, one of the great poets of his day, wrote about the worth of the soul.
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home: