- 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!
Written in 1895, first published at the end of Brother Square Toes, the seventh chapter of the children's storybook Rewards and Fairies in 1910.
by Doubleday Page & Co., Garden City, New York, 1910, and ebay
According to his 1937 autobiography Something of Myself, Kipling wrote If— in his Burwash, East Sussex home Bateman's inspired by the news surrounding Dr Leander Starr Jameson in 1895, when Jameson led about five hundred of his countrymen in an armed raid against the Boers in southern Africa. What has become known as the Jameson Raid was later seen as a major factor in bringing about the Boer War of 1899 to 1902, but at the time the story as recounted in the press was quite different than the events. The British defeat was interpreted as a victory and Jameson portrayed as a compassionate, daring hero in the hour of ultimate despair and chaos. From 1904 to 1908 he served as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony. On different occasions, both Jameson and Kipling were guests at the South African ranch of Cecil Rhodes, who sponsored the raid.
The last three stanzas of The Undertaking by John Donne are said to have served as a model for the format of the poem.
If— in turn has inspired a multitude of artists, from greeting card designers to translators to musicians such as the Czech composer Otmar Mácha (in his Songs of the White Men from 1947), Howard Blake (whose version was recorded in the Royal Albert Hall 23 March 1999) and Joni Mitchell (on her album Shine, released 25 September 2007). The poem is read on Youtube by kings and commoners alike, ranging from Robert Morley and Dennis Hopper to livingpassion and Ukuleleric. The rendering as If by Rudyard Kipling Compared to No Suprises by Radiohead is certainly the most confronting. Do enjoy the team effort of If - World Cup 98 and the personal touch "If" (We Can Make a Difference to Our Kids).
When in 1995 the BBC asked the people for Britain's favourite poem, Kipling's If— received twice as many votes as the second in line, Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott.¹
by Communication Design student Trysten Coblenz
in the Emily Carr University Grad 2009 Catalogue.
“If” by Rudyard Kipling
by Rosemary Buczek of The Gilded Quill
tattoo by Dave and Skin Flix in Maidstone for Martin Beech
as pyrography on a panel of poplar wood by Tanja Sova
Rudyard Kipling 3
with the title of IF in raised gold writing by Stephen Guyatt
, artist in oils.
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