If (Rudyard Kipling)

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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!
by Rudyard Kipling,  A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)
illustration by Corrie Haffly


Confession: I had never read this poem before this week. (Did I mention I was scared of poetry and, unless it was in my English curriculum in High School or shared with me by a poetry loving friend, I have not read it?)

But in a way I’m glad: because this poem means so much to me now and I think I would have thought it trite as a teenager. But now, in the stark daylight of adulthood when we have felt the temptation to be mastered by our dreams, where we’ve faced some triumph and disaster and seen how it shines light on our souls, where we have had our words twisted (or twisted those of others), where we have rued the waste of that unforgiving minute more times than we can remember, where we have seen those around us lose their head in times of stress…

          …. now I see. And I so want this maturity–this Christlikeness—both for me and my children.

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6 thoughts on “If (Rudyard Kipling)”

    1. I hadn’t thought to memorize this… good idea! I can think of a number of ways this will be useful as we walk through the teen years with our own three littles. Thanks for enjoying this poetry series with me, Michele. -BL

  1. These are the lines that particularly spoke to me when I read this today: “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.” Kipling seemed to recognize the temptation to boast about our humility! There is so much wisdom in this poem.

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