If

by Rudyard Kipling   1895

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

According to Wiki, this poem “was written in tribute to the British imperialist politician Leander Starr Jameson, and as paternal advice to Kipling’s son John.”

[Suggested by Kung Fu Zu] __________________________________________________
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5 Responses to If

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    That is one of the finest poems of all time. Who now is teaching boys to be men?

    Speaking of Kipling, I found this terrific site that features online many of Kipling’s short stories and other works: Works of Rudyard Kipling.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    One or another of my high school English texts had “If”, though I don’t recall specifically if we read it for class. I did read it, but that isn’t absolute proof. I will note that Isaac Asimov once discussed the poem in looking back on his life (he was especially concerned about the final portion), and that Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera (son of the old dictator and founder of the Falange Espanol) was a big fan of the poem (according to Hugh Thomas).

    • Kung Fu Zu says:

      “I will note that Isaac Asimov once discussed the poem in looking back on his life (he was especially concerned about the final portion), and that Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera (son of the old dictator and founder of the Falange Espanol) was a big fan of the poem (according to Hugh Thomas).”

      That simply shows that the poem worked. Different people saw different things in it. I would be curious if de Rivera read it in translation or in the original. If in the original, how well did he comprehend English?

      I am curious as to why Asimov would have trouble with the last verse.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        That’s not how I meant “concerned”. The part about filling up a minute was something he felt he had done well at (given his vast writing output). As for Jose Antonio, Thomas mentions that “If” was his favorite poem, but goes no further. As a well-educated young man, he probably did know English.

        • Kung Fu Zu says:

          Thanks for clarification on Asimov. I thought “trouble” as whenever I hear comments on the poem, they seem to complain about the imperialistic nature of the poem or some such rot. So to hear that Asimov thought the poem important in his life, is heartening.

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