Friday, January 11

If, Yet Again

In 1909, Rudyard Kipling wrote the poem If, inspired by the story of Leander Starr Jameson. It was Dr. Jameson who led about five-hundred English and South African militiamen in a courageous but disastrous raid against Boer insurgents, along the Transvaal frontier. Inevitably however, Kipling found that the verse came to represent events in his own life as much as Jameson’s.

Every year, I read the poem to my students--knowing that they are certain to face difficulties and disappointments along the way. As with Kipling though, inevitably, I find it as applicable to my own life during the course of the year, as to theirs. May we both have the courage to demonstrate such character and restraint.

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 all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath 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!

5 comments:

Linda said...

I've read, and heard, this poem for years. Like any well-written word, at times it reveals a new depth of meaning and it suddenly becomes brand-new.

The Cyberservant said...

"My son, pay attention to my words;
listen closely to my saying. Don't lose sight of them; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and health to one's whole body. Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life." Proverbs 4:20-23

Look up! God is doing amazing things.

Camille said...

Marvelous poem! Very insightful! It definitely is a work of art that deserves to be read many times over…chewed on and digested, in a sense. Thank you for reminding us of it.

Pro_Veritas said...

Always one of my favorite poems and so very often excruciatingly applicable to our lives. It so succinctly depicts the fallenness of our natures and at the same time, calls us to something higher. I walked away this week from my time spent visiting a dear friend, amazed at and honored to know those who are indeed striving to be this type of "man".

Kerry said...

I just read this poem 2 days ago as we were reading Churchill's speech, Never Give In. He quotes it, so I read it aloud to my kids. I was amazed how well it describes Churchill.

I remember memorizing this as a kid and plan to memorize it again (with my kids) next week.

Thanks for posting such a great poem.