‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling

I discovered this poem very recently, about a month back. I cannot believe I haven’t ever come across this one before, because a lot of people told me it is one of their favorites. Anyway, I fell in love with the poem since it closely relates to things happening in my life right now and I wanted to share this one with you all.

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!

Lauded as one of ‘Britons’ favorite poems’, ‘If’ was inspired by the colonial politician Leander Starr Jameson, who led the failed Jameson raid against South Africa to overthrow the Boer government. This failed raid is believed to have led to the Second Boer War. Though Jameson was arrested and tried, his heroic actions and willingness to take responsibility for the mission made him a role model for millions of Britons.

The poem emphasizes on the old world virtues of responsibility, stoicism, humility and the strength to stare defeat in the eye. These qualities have become a rarity and united, are impossible to find in a man. The poem has no illusions of grandeur about it and is a study in contrast to ‘Invictus’. It is simple verse, matter of fact and as has been frequently observed, atypical of the British ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude.
A poem that has inspired, comforted and given direction to countless, ‘If’ is highly regarded as one of Kipling’s best works. A true gem.
You can find a musical rendition of the song here-

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