If—

Continuing the “Poetry Corner” theme for one more day (actually, I may do one more day tomorrow), let me follow through on my comment yesterday by offering another Rudyard Kipling poem.  This time, “If—”: A poem that has challenged me, personally, and provided me many opportunities for reflection.

If Wikipedia is to be believed (and who would ever doubt Wikipedia?), it was voted the most popular poem in the UK in a 1995 BBC poll.  Regardless, it is quite a tribute to the “stiff upper lip” mentality of our brothers across the waters.

(If you do not speak English, the poem very well may have been translated into your language.  Click here for a list of different translations.)

Once again, here’s Kipling…

If—

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 imposters 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 wornout 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!

(For those interested, there is a pleasant “typographic animation” of the poem one can watch.  The animation was created by George Horne and the poem is read by Des Lynam.  Click here to watch.  But i fyou are new to the poem, don’t click over to watch until you’ve simply read through the poem once or twice.  I enjoy the clever animation, but when it comes to actual impact, I think the animations can be distracting.)

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6 thoughts on “If—

  1. Rick Collins

    Thanks for posting this. I have always loved this poem. It makes you look at that man in the mirror to see what character is being built. Is it Godly character or something else?

    Thanks,
    Rick

  2. My Mom reminded me of the first two lines of this poem, when I was going through a stressful period during college. I never remember the other lines — but the first two were enough.

  3. Zono Riggs

    One of my favorites! I loved the reading and music, but felt the graphics were distracting also.
    ZR

  4. I found the video helped me, maybe it’s the professional reading with good rhythm that helped. The animation shows how typography can make text unreadable. The vocals in the background got terribly distracting.

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