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If -poem- (Rudyard Kipling)
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A really motivational and encouraging poem; visual poetry performance reading by Christopher Emerson.

Rudyard Kipling's (1865-1936) inspirational poem 'If–' first appeared in his collection 'Rewards and Fairies' in 1909. The poem 'If-' is inspirational, motivational, and a set of rules for 'grown-up' living. Kipling's 'If–' contains mottos and maxims for life, and the poem is also a blueprint for personal integrity, behaviour and self-development. 'If–' is perhaps even more relevant today than when Kipling wrote it, as an ethos and a personal philosophy. Lines from Kipling's 'If–' appear over the player's entrance to Wimbledon's Centre Court - a poignant reflection of the poem's timeless and inspiring quality.

The beauty and elegance of 'If–' contrasts starkly with Rudyard Kipling's largely tragic and unhappy life. He was starved of love and attention and sent away by his parents; beaten and abused by his foster mother; and a failure at a public school which sought to develop qualities that were completely alien to Kipling. In later life the deaths of two of his children also affected Kipling deeply.

Rudyard Kipling achieved fame quickly, based initially on his first stories and poems written in India (he returned there after College), and his great popularity with the British public continued despite subsequent critical reaction to some of his more conservative work, and critical opinion in later years that his poetry was superficial and lacking in depth of meaning.

Significantly, Kipling turned down many honours offered to him including a knighthood, Poet Laureate and the Order of Merit, but in 1907 he accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature. Kipling's wide popular appeal survives through other works, notably The Jungle Book (1894) the novel Kim (1901), and Just So Stories (1902).

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!

KEEP YOUR HEAD= Don’t lose control, be able to think clearly and take sound decisions when things go crazy around you.

BLAMING IT ON YOU= If you blame it on John, you think that what is happening is John’s fault, he is responsible for it.

DOUBT= /daʊt/ If people doubt you, they don’t trust you and/or they don’t think you will be able to do it right.

MAKE ALLOWANCE FOR= If you make allowance for something, you anticipate it, you take it into consideration, you know that it is possible and may happen (or will happen).

DEAL IN= If you deal in something, you buy and sell it, you traffic in it.

BEING LIED ABOUT= (passive voice) If you are being lied about, people around you say lies to you.
The particle ABOUT in phrasal verbs often has a similar meaning to AROUND (in fact, in Old English the word “about” meant “around”)

DON’T GIVE WAY TO HATING= Don’t hate, try not to feel hate.
If you give way to a feeling, etc, you abandon yourself to that feeling without trying to stop it:
- When the dog started to bark she gave way to hysteria (she became hysterical and did nothing to stop it)
- When things go bad, cheer up, don’t give way to sadness (try not to get sad, fight against it)
- She started to read the letter when suddenly gave way to tears (she started to cry and did nothing to stop it)
It may also mean that an emotion is transformed into a different emotion:
- Initial suspicion gave way to affection (at first he felt suspicious about her, but later he began to like her)
- Kevin’s discomfort gave way to anger.
The word TO here is a preposition (not a mark of infinitive), remember that after prepositions and conjunctions we use –ING:
- In a society like that, when things go wrong you easily give way to fighting.

YET= Nevertheless, however.

DON’T LOOK TOO GOOD= Don’t look too well, don’t look too attractive.
Using an adjective instead of an adverb is a common thing in English (especially American English).
In some cases, it is more common the use of “good” than the use of “well”:
- I feel good
- That smells good
- You look good

WISE= Having the ability to distinguish right from wrong and take the correct decisions in life.

AIM= Goal, objective, intention.

IMPOSTORS= An impostor is somebody who pretends to be somebody else.

YOU CAN BEAR= You can stand = if you can bear/stand something, you feel comfortable with it or at least you are able to experience it. If you can’t bear/stand something, it’s too much for you, you hate it, you feel it’s like a torture and you don’t want it. Followed by -ING:
- I can’t stand getting wet (I hate it when it happens, I dislike it so much)
- I can’t bear Susan, she’s so stupid (I don’t like being with her at all)
- He just can’t bear it when people shout at him (that makes him really nervous)

TWISTED= If a truth is twisted, people change it so it becomes something different, a lie:
- The president spoke yesterday, but everything he said was twisted in the news.
- Why everything you say is twisted round some other way?
- That’s certainly NOT what I say, you’re always twisting my words.

KNAVE= Someone who is foolish, wicked and unreliable.

STOOP= Bend down forwards, usually to take something from the floor or as a sign of submission.

‘EM= (col.) Them.

WORN-OUT= Something which is worn out, is in a bad condition because it has been used a lot.

A HEAP= A pile, a group of things placed or thrown on top of each other.

RISK= If you risk X on a game, then if you win, you get more, if you lose, you lose X and have it no more.

PITCH-AND-TOSS=  A gambling game of skill and chance in which the player who pitches a coin nearest to a mark has the first chance to toss all the coins, winning those that land heads up

BREATHE= The act of letting air flow inside and outside your lungs. Be careful with the pronunciation and spelling of verb and noun:
- to breathe /bri:ð/
- your breath /breθ/
TO BREATHE A WORD means to say something (especially softly).

SINEW= Muscular power.

HOLD ON= Resist.

THE WILL= Self-control; wish; the mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action.

VIRTUE= /vɜ:*tʃə/  Moral excellence and righteousness; goodness.

THE COMMON TOUCH= The property of appealing to people in general (usually by appearing to have qualities in common with them), connecting with people in general, not just with the elites.

FOES= /fəʊz/ (archaic) Enemies.
The word “enemy” is a later French word, the original Saxon word was “foe”, but we still use “foe” in poetry and sometimes in the expression “foes and friends” (friends and enemies), because English speakers still love alliterations (which was the basis of old English poetry and music, later replaced by rhyme).

COUNT WITH YOU= If they count with you, you are important for them.
Careful: for many English speakers, “count with you” would simply mean “count numbers in your company: 1, 2, 3…”.
Note for Spanish speakers: “cuenta conmigo” is “count on me” (not “count with me”).

NONE= /nʌn/ nobody, nothing.

THE UNFORGIVING MINUTE= If" is filled with advice on how to best spend your time, and best react in each situation that is presented to you, no matter how diverse it is. So, when Kipling states, "If you can fill the unforgiving minute/With sixty seconds' worth of distance run," he is saying that with every minute that you are given, make the absolute most of it that you can. "Unforgiving minute" refers to the fact that every single minute is 60 seconds long-no more, and no less. So when that minute is up, it is gone, forever. You can't call it back to spend that time differently. A minute is not merciful; it doesn't slow itself down to give you more time, or tack on a few seconds, or take a few of here or there. It is unforgiving time; always constant, always running. So, Kipling's advice is to fill every minute "with sixty seconds' worth of distance run," or to get as much good, effort, energy and distance out of every minute that you are given.
(Read more:

SON= /sʌn/


For many people today, especially in the West, living life to its fullest means having as much fun as possible though trying to avoid bad consequences that might ruin the fun (hedonistic view). But not long ago, the idea of living life to its fullest was quite different. It was all about living life correctly (fun or not fun). This is the kind of life this poem advocates, a life that will eventually make your soul lift up, not a life that will simply make your body have fun right here and right now. The advice contained here is not about behaviour (as a modern father would probably  preach about today), but about character, and character is something we grow along the years, not something we can improvise. If a person cultivates the right character, the right nature, his behaviour will naturally be good, correct and consistent. This poem is not about how to do the right things, but about how to be the right person. It’s not about how to be successful, but about how to be good and trustful.

Around the middle of the 20th century, the ethics of character was quickly replaced by the ethics of success, all about how to display the right behaviour to achieve the right goal. This new ethics, which shows in the self-help books and new age gibberish, is superficial, inconsistent and goal-oriented; it may get good results in the short run, but sooner or later, the true nature of the person will eventually raise its ugly face (but who cares about the long-run anyway?) It will show you how to be the perfect Don Juan to get the woman you want, but eventually she will discover that you simply don’t love her good enough; it will help you to convince people to join in a venture with you, but eventually they will find you lied to them and will feel betrayed; it will help you to make new friends, but eventually they will know you well and stop trusting you; it will help you overcome your present depression, but eventually you will experience again how meaningless your life is.

This poem, from 1895, is a good opportunity to compare the moral of old with modern ethics. Modern ethics is, as most things today, an instant short-lived recipe to help you get out of this problem… only to later fall in a bigger one. Kipling’s ethics, traditional ethics, is a long-term recipe to feel at peace with yourself, to be a good person. It doesn’t try to solve THIS problem, it tries to solve life.

Here’s an article analyzing the poem (unfortunately I can't link to the original article because it has disappeared, but this is the transcription:)


Several of life's challenges can be construed from the first eight lines. People who are unable to accept responsibility for their actions or inactions will shirk their responsibility on the matter and blame someone else for their misgivings. The poem stresses the importance of accepting one's own responsibility for the choices made; not to play the blame game. Look within yourself for the answers and do not allow others to push you down or make you feel small and unworthy of life's good things.

The poem stresses the importance of being true to yourself and when the doubting Thomases try to break you down by doubting your abilities don't let those doubts keep you from achieving your goals. However, take note of those who doubt you. Consider their doubts and make improvements to yourself or life as you know it to counteract those doubts. Learn to be humble and don't become a braggart.

Dare to dream, but do not allow that dream to control your every waking moment. Embrace the dream as your own, but do not trample others to achieve that dream. Be triumphant when your dreams are fulfilled, but do not become a martyr [if you fail]. When disasters occur in life, learn from them; do not ignore the disasters or triumphs in your life as they both have different effects on life as you know it. Both can destroy and both can give life. How you interpret that is your choice and how you choose to live will not only affect you, but will affect anything and everything that is near and dear to you.

Learn to speak the truth and take responsibility for your actions or inactions that may cause an upset in your life. Do not place blame where it doesn't belong. You make your own choices and placing the blame on others only exacerbates the problem. You cannot learn from bad choices if you constantly blame others for your misgivings. When life throws you curves from the side lines, steer around those curves, embrace them as a learning tool, and do not lose sight of lessons learned.

When you've been kicked down, get back up and do not by any means allow that kick to destroy your true self. Become stronger and wiser because of those lessons learned. Gather all things that are broken in your life and put them back together again to make it stronger. Strength is in the way you handle the stressful times in your life whether those stressors are good or bad. Live your life in the right way. Be true to yourself. Be true to others. Leave a mark on the world, so once you're gone from this mortal world, you will be remembered with kindness and love.

Do not allow success to overcome your kindness to others and do not lose the ability to have compassion and empathy for others' plight. Walk with the kings, but do not tread on others to get there. This sentence has great meaning all by itself. Do not lose yourself in the money world and do not put others down because of their situations. Give as much as you can to others who need your help and do not focus solely on your goals in life without being careful or wary of those actions and what those actions might do to others.

Do not become oblivious to others' pain and suffering. Be kind and offer them your help. Turning your back on the needy is selfish and greedy. By doing this to others, you are not only hurting those who need your help, you are hurting yourself. Become a man of integrity and compassion because it will bring you rewarding outcomes. Be true to yourself, your loved ones, and anyone else who might cross paths with you. You know the saying: the grass is always greener on the other side? It's meaning can be numerous, but the meaning has a lot of truth. Do not burn your bridges because some day that grass on the other side of the bridge might look really good to you and you can't achieve your goal of reaching that grass because you burned all your bridges.

As you can see, I've given my analysis of the poem If. My analysis may be the same as, similar as, or completely different from those who will be reading this analysis. In short, to me this poem puts a great emphasis on do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you can get through life with all its curves, good or bad, you can be proud of yourself for tackling problems head on. Be humble and do not brag about your successes or whine about your losses. If you can go without bragging and whining and learn from your mistakes, you will achieve the greatest rewards: to be a man.

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