Subtitled as ‘Brother Square-Toes’—Rewards and Fairies, the poem “If” is a masterpiece written by Rudyard Kipling. The great British poet who was born in Mumbai, India is best known for his novels The Jungle Book, The Second Jungle Book, and Kim. “If” is his most famous poem, and loved by people the world over.
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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!
Analysis of Kipling’s “If”
The poem “If” is a paean to British masculine rectitude and stoicism. The poem is structured in such a way that almost every line of every stanza of the poem starts with the word ‘If’. The poet is addressing his son in the poem, shedding light on his beliefs and conveying those to his son.
The poem is directly addressed to the reader, in an attempt to open their eyes into believing in themselves. The poem’s speaker narrates the poem directly addressing the reader as ‘you’. In the first half of the poem, the speaker states that if you can keep focused while others lose their heads, if you can keep your patience and temperament while others lose theirs, and deal with not looking too good or talking too wisely; the poet stops, moving on to the second stanza.
In the second stanza, the poet talks about dreaming but not letting those dreams cloud your reason, mentions thinking and simultaneously taking action. In the words of the poet he illustrates the following remarks such as, if you can deal both sides of triumph and disaster, if you can handle when other people twist your truth into despicable lies, or for that matter, if, you can turn the things from dead to alive again; before moving onto the latter part of the poem still not giving a concluding remark.
The poet then states, if you can keep it a secret the fact that you bet all your winnings in one fell swoop ultimately losing it, if you have the willingness to hold on, when everything else fails, talk with kings without being pretentious, if you have the ability to handle foes and friends, if you see that men count on you but not too much for that matter, and most importantly, if you can fill every moment with ease, then you will have every tangible and intangible element that Earth offers.