If— in the life
- You're rnd, McCracken, circa 1918
- If you can stand the Quest, Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew, 1921
- An “If” for Girls, Elizabeth Lincoln Otis, 1931
- If (after Rudyard Kipling), A.L.S., circa 1943
- If (By Mr. Kipling), Kevin Connolly
- Advice to an Applicant , Jonathan Robin in 2005
- If— (you want to be a true jihadi), John Derbyshire in 2006
- If you can keep your head when all around you
- is shot and shell and bomb and poison gas;
- If you can keep your watch though dugout tempts you,
- As round your post death's missiles fiercely pass,
- If you with calm can face the hellish war-tune
- If you can fight, though fightings not your aim;
- If you can meet with vic'ry or misfortune,
- And treat them both as part of the great game,
- If you can bear the risks and daily terrors
- Of frontline trench or billets nightly shelled,
- And serve the staff as though they've made no errors,
- Though often, perhaps, quite different views you've held;
- If you can speculate upon your chances
- Of winning through, and count them ten to one,
- And take the lot on counting deaths last dances
- Where duty calls or honour to be won;
- If you serene can face the shell made curtain,
- and through it merge, with courage undismayed,
- Nor turn right nor left to make more certain
- You're not alone—not alone being unafraid;
- if though you wish for peace, you've yet decided
- You will not sheath the sword you wear today;
- Even though in arms you may have long abided,
- You'll carry on till foes shall own your sway;
- If you can kill the Huns and keep on killing,
- Until at length they cry aloud, “you've won!”
- Yours is the corps whose glories send hearts thrilling,
- You're justly proud—you're rnd, my son.
From: Surgeon Commander McCracken of the Royal Naval Division (rnd
), towards the end of World War I, in The incubator
, a publication of the rnd
's home base at Blandford.
If you can stand the Quest
- If you can stand the Quest and all her antics
- When all around you turn somersaults upon her deck;
- And go aloft when no one has told you
- And not fall down and break your blooming neck;
- If you can work like Wild and also like Wuzzles
- Spend a convivial night with some old bean,
- And then come down and meet the Boss at breakfast
- And never breathe a word of where you've been.
- If you can fill the port and starboard bunkers
- With fourteen tons of coal; and call it fun;
- Yours is the ship and everything that's in it
- And you're a marvel; not a man my son.
Written by Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew during his last Antarctic expedition in 1921, on a piece of cardboard now in the National Maritime Museum
. Wuzzles is a reference to the ship's hydrographer F.A. Worsley. The Quest is the name of the ship. The inspiration for the poem is easily understood, as the explorer pointed out before he left:
Shackleton party off for Antarctic
. London, Sept. 17, 1921.
The Chicago Tribune Co. Full article
An “If” for Girls
(With apologies to Mr. Rudyard Kipling)
- If you can dress to make yourself attractive,
- Yet not make puffs and curls your chief delight;
- If you can swim and row, be strong and active,
- But of the gentler graces lose not sight;
- If you can dance without a craze for dancing,
- Play without giving play too strong a hold,
- Enjoy the love of friends without romancing,
- Care for the weak, the friendless and the old;
- If you can master French and Greek and Latin,
- And not acquire, as well, a priggish mien,
- If you can feel the touch of silk and satin
- Without despising calico and jean;
- If you can ply a saw and use a hammer,
- Can do a man's work when the need occurs,
- Can sing when asked, without excuse or stammer,
- Can rise above unfriendly snubs and slurs;
- If you can make good bread as well as fudges,
- Can sew with skill and have an eye for dust,
- If you can be a friend and hold no grudges,
- A girl whom all will love because they must;
- If sometime you should meet and love another
- And make a home with faith and peace enshrined,
- And you its soul—a loyal wife and mother—
- You 'll work out pretty nearly to my mind
- The plan that 's been developed through the ages,
- And win the best that life can have in store,
- You 'll be, my girl, the model for the sages—
- A woman whom the world will bow before.
By Elizabeth Lincoln Otis.
Published in: Father: An Anthology of Verse, EP Dutton & Company, 1931.
If (after Rudyard Kipling)
- If you can join the Group whilst fellow workers
- Are hanging back and leaving it to you—
- If you can pay your sub. and show the shirkers
- You 're out to beat “Old Nasty” and his crew—
- If you can urge them to the resolution
- To sign the form and undertake their share—
- If you can raise your weekly contribution
- Another sixpence here, a sixpence there,
- If you can watch your savings ever growing
- With more Certificates at fifteen bob,
- And watching them, can feel a pride at knowing
- They go to help Old England do her job—
- If you can keep your book and all that 's in it,
- Nor seek repayment till the fight is won,
- Peace shall be yours, for you will help to win it—
- And what is more, I know you can, my son!
Prior to World War II, British citizens had for many years been the most highly taxed wage earners in the world. Yet from the beginning of the war to March 1943, the British people had put over twenty billion dollars into war savings. The popular campaigns of the war—Spitfire Funds (1940), War Weapons (1941), Warships (1942), Wings for Victory (1943), and Salute the Soldier (1944)—encouraged donors by pointing out specific items their contributions could purchase, much as the War Savings Bonds campaigns in the United States. The economic importance of these savings campaigns in Britain lay in their anti-inflationary effect.
Possibly “A.L.S.” indicates the name of the author, but certainly ‘als’ is the Dutch word for ‘if’.
If (By Mr. Kipling)
- If you can bake a cake when all about you
- Are burning theirs and blaming it on you;
- If you can trust your buns when bakers doubt you,
- Then make allowance for their doubting too.
- If you can bake and not be tired by baking,
- Get your jam-tarts out, don't make rhubarb-pies.
- Don't make toast or give way to brown bread-making,
- And yet don't burn your scones, and you'll be wise.
- If you can make one heap of all your fine buns
- And turn them into one huge wedding-cake,
- Fine-sprinkle the top with hundreds and thousands,
- Then that would be the best cake you could make.
- If you can force your dough into a huge pan
- To serve your turn long after you are gone,
- Then maybe you would rather make a big flan?
- And don't forget to make the odd croissant.
- If you can bake with crowds and keep your virtue,
- Or bake with kings, don't lose the common touch.
- If neither cake nor bun-eaters can hurt you,
- Then fill their tums with toffee, jam and fudge.
- If you can fill the unforgiving minute
- With sixty seconds' worth of baking, run…
- Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
- And—which is more—you'll bake a cake, my son!
Advice to an Applicant
Parody Rudyard Kipling – If
- If you can back your boss and keep on smiling,
- while toning down his brash absurdities,
- if, having watched the man manhandle filing,
- you rearrange the folders pretty please,
- if coy and charming, beautiful, beguiling,
- anticipating all contingencies,
- you manage new accounts, contacts redialling,
- correct crass spelling, cover vagaries...
- If you can keep your head while he 's resiling,
- evolve successful counter-strategies,
- if ‘mum 's the word’, discrete, effective tyling,
- from busy-bodies safe when he agrees.
- If you can spend your time in reconciling
- his intellectual inanities,
- never upset his fragile ego, heiling
- whene'er he feels the need, or profits sneeze...
- If Windows easy comes, while modem dialing
- to DSL migration 's not a tease,
- if firewall free from viruses hostiling
- you clean can keep, recalling password keys,
- if the above you show him recompiling
- the data lost when he lacks expertise, -
- yet know your place as cypher, never riling,
- remembering to bow before ‘big cheese’...
- If you can stand him publicly reviling
- your good ideas, then claim them his with ease,
- can watch while rival's ruin he 's compiling
- so coldly that a lizard's blood would freeze.
- If when betrayed by his ambitious wiling
- you triumph through innate abilities,
- ignoring basic scheming, baser guiling,
- you seize the precious point he never sees! ...
- If you won't blush when, rash, he 'll rush, exiling
- your intuitions as freak fantasies,
- but confidently while free-time he 's whiling,
- circumvent his incapacities.
- Surpassing him in brains, tact, versatiling,
- you never strive to swap your salaries,
- but both feet on the ground, still patient, smiling,
- can counteract his incoherencies...
- If you are sure his image needs restyling,
- select the suits that suit down to the tees,
- if you are ever ready camomiling,
- or sprinkling sugar, creaming, coffee, teas,
- if you can trick his wayward infantiling
- and censure not his immaturities,
- ignore his clumsy tries at fond defling,
- yet fondled, tactful, rise from off his knees...
- If you take three degrees while reconciling
- your private life to further Ph.D.'s,
- if you can children bear without work piling
- and keep them free from trouble and disease,
- if you can spring his quick promotion – vile thing –
- and play the game of happy families...
- Yours is the job, the rest 's cosmetic styling,
- the prized princess and pride of... secret'ries!
Jonathan Robin, London, 21 Februrary 1990 & 23 May 2005.
If— (you want to be a true jihadi)
- If you can hack the head off from a hostage
- Who 's kneeling bound and helpless on the floor;
- If you can purge yourself of each last vestige
- Of decency, morality, and Law;
- If you can hate and never tire of hating,
- Or, faced with truth, still hold fast to your lies,
- Or, while you 're hard at work decapitating,
- Show no trace of pity in your eyes:
- If you can teach your kids the “victim” story,
- Stir Muslim losers trapped in English slums,
- Fill youthful heads with crackpot dreams of glory,
- And urge them on to fiery martyrdoms;
- If you can use religion as a cover
- For deeds no man could pardon or excuse,
- Or claim that all the ills we humans suffer
- Are machinations of the evil Jews:
- If you can use the fruits of Western science
- (A science that your culture cannot match)
- To broadcast all your hatred and defiance,
- Or carry out your crimes with more dispatch;
- If you can put aside sectarian violence,
- Co-operate with Shi'ites from Iran,
- Unite Islam; intimidate to silence
- All Muslims who won't sign up to your plan:
- If you can fly a plane into a building
- Filled with harmless folk you 've never seen,
- Or seize a school that 's full of little children
- And murder them when rescuers break in;
- If you can fill each precious living minute
- With sixty seconds' worth of evil done,
- Yours is heaven, and all the virgins in it,
- And then you 'll be a real jihadi, son!
But certainly equally worthwhile:
- Remember Cliffside High, by Geraldine Wall, December 1946
- Rudyard Kipling as a Job Consultant, by Frank Jacobs, 1994
- If (you can keep your computer on), by Anastasia Levin, 11 November 2001
- If (you can keep your sword), by Enuf al-Ready, 11 May 2005
- Hillary's Message to Girls, by Helen Heightsman Gordon, May 2008
- If, by Bob Newman, on managementspeak
- --oOo-- -