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“If” by Rudyard Kipling

if160In 1883 Rudyard Kipling was a Junior Editor who would with the Editor’s assent intersperse his poems in the left-over spaces of the weekly gazette. After three years he gathered his poems together and republished them with his book being an immediate success.

Then it was one book after another from 1886 until his death in 1936 with the poet’s pen being seldom idle. His books become popular because his poetry expressed the deep soul-sense of men to live up to a standard set by their forebears.

He was by far the most widely read, and the best-loved, poet writing in English at the beginning of this century; every cultured person in the English speaking world was familiar with at least some of his poems. In 1907 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Below is an example of one of his classic poems. You read it in high school, but now read it carefully again:

“If” by Rudyard Kipling

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!

3 thoughts on ““If” by Rudyard Kipling

  1. It brought me to sobbing, and finding such truth in his words that I wonder if it would touch every one–who reads it–some line or passage–must have relevance to all.

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