If —

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!

Rudyard Kipling

Posted in Poetry Blog Tagged with: , , , ,
21 comments on “If —
  1. Profile photo of Rhianna King says:

    The poem ‘If-‘ explores a range of demands and requirements that Kipling has for his son; however, the last two lines demonstrate how important becoming a man is to the poet. The last line is “And- which is more- you’ll be a Man, my son!” which is a very patriarchal comment and in particular the use of capitalising the beginning of ‘Man’ both emphasises the importance of that status as well as showing the word man to be a title worthy of possessing. The use of ‘which is more’ implies that being a man is of the utmost importance and should therefore be the main priority of the poet’s son. This, therefore, implies to the reader that the poet is trying to pass his own goals onto his son and that, as being a man is so important to him, he would perhaps be deeply disappointed if his son did not do everything in his power to become a man. This shows status to be a main priority for the poet which suggests that the consequences or shame of not being perceived as a man may cause the poet to be ashamed or embarrassed by his own son which makes the reader ponder what the repercussions of that will be and to what extent the poet would be willing to go to ensure his son becomes what he desires him to be.
    However, the penultimate line is full of admiration, love and the shows the hope and pure dreams of the poet’s in terms of his son’s future.

  2. Profile photo of Rhianna Creasey says:

    Rudyard Kipling mentions a plethora of difficulties and challenges of life throughout the poem “And so hold on when there is nothing in you … Except the will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’”. The author also stresses the idea of people and how they sometimes are unable to take responsibilities for both their actions and inactions. Rather, they choose the easy way out and put the blame on other people except for themselves. As such, Kipling underlines the importance of taking responsibility for the choices that you made. The effect of this quotation on the reader could be that it inspires them to be better people to look for life answers within yourself and at the same time not allowing these hardships to bring you down. This advice could be used to pass on to other generations. Another interpretation of this could be that this quotation symbolises perseverance and courage. Kipling talks about how important it is to dare to dream and yet not allowing those dream to control your life. He likewise talks about embracing these dreams and being sensitive enough not to trample other people’s dream. At the same time, the author also talks about being humble and not allowing triumph to get into one’s head. The poetic device used in this poem is personification. Kipling gives movement and life to this piece by using personification. This is when used where it states about will “which says to them ‘Hold on’”. In these lines, we can see how Kipling pours human-like attributes to these abstract qualities, which in turn adds life to the entire piece, which could make the reader relate to the poem more easily.

  3. Profile photo of Katie Scott says:

    Towards the end of the poem ‘If-‘ by Rudyard Kipling, the writer uses punctuation to alter the interpretation of the poem. The caesura in “And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!” breaks up the poem which, until now, as been one continuous thought. The word “Man” is capitalised which deems it important, similar to titles such as ‘Sir’ which must be earned. This makes the reader believe that the poem has been instructional and that if the reader follows the commands, they will achieve this honour of being a “Man”. However, another interpretation could be that the writer is adding one final point to the check list which is that the subject must “be a Man” at all times, meaning the capitalisation is to mark the importance of this particular instruction.

    The lexis “If” is a conditional word that makes a statement uncertain. The fact that every paragraph begins in this manner implies the author is uncertain of what his own intentions are and that the results are varying and not always accurate. The poem is portrayed as opinion through the use of this lexis, and the direct address to the reader makes it seem as though the writer is attempting to persuade them of something or influence or inflict his opinions onto them.

    This idea is confirmed through the rhyme scheme of ABAB… as it makes the poem seem seem predictable and therefore right. The rhyming also makes it appear that the writer is addressing a child who is not yet a ‘man’ and encourages the reader to desire this achievement of becoming one.

  4. Profile photo of Sofia says:

    Rudyard Kipling uses techniques to stress the importance in the poem ‘If-‘ “Triumph and Disaster.” Here the poet personifies both the words by capitalizing them to convey it’s importance and also to portray that they are both as bad; even though triumph may not seem to have negative connotations. Kipling is suggesting that if you win, it could get to your head and can even change you as a person which is just as bad as disaster so, by capitalizing both words conveys that Kipling is treating them as the same.

    The line before that links with this idea of triumph and disaster because he is trying to get across to the reader that dreams, goals and aspirations should not take over your life in any way as there are other opportunities that you should also consider. The reason why the poet is stressing the idea of triumph and disaster and that goals should not stand in the way of your life could be because the poet himself has experienced this himself and therefore wants to prevent his son from also making that mistake that he made or it could be interpreted that the poet is just trying to pass on all the knowledge that he knows onto his son so that he can be as wise as he is and be a real man; as referred to in the last stanza.

  5. Sophie says:

    The poem ‘If-‘ by Rudyard Kipling was originally written for his son; because of this the poem has an instructional, almost paternal effect. Throughout the poem, advice is given by the author with aims to guide the reader through life, as the poem sets out certain expectations he belives will help them to achieve their best.

    ‘If you can dream – and not make dreams your master’. This shows that the writer believes it is important for people to have goals and ambitions which they can strive to achieve. However he stresses that it is important not to let them take over your life. This insightfulness gives the impression that Kipling is speaking from experience – which could relate to events that took place during the Boer War. As the poem was written in 1912 just before World War 1, many of Kipling’s friends would have been involved in the Boer War and naturally as a result he would have experienced personal loss. This could have been the driving force of the idea to ‘live in the moment’ and ‘enjoy life’ as ultimately it can be taken from you at any point. These are the fundamental concepts of the poem, which are reiterated throughout.

    Alongside the general ideas of achieving the most you can aswell as being optimistic, the author also expresses his views that life is best lived with a belief in God. This is emphasised when it states ‘Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’ ‘. The captilisation of the word ‘Will’ suggests that it is religious imagery, and that it is relating to ‘God’s will’. This idea links with the rest of the poem setting out Kipling’s ideals – which due to his religous beliefs are also ‘God’s ideals’ on how best to live your life.

  6. Profile photo of Vicky Murkett says:

    Within this poem, many morals are portrayed throughout such as a farther passing on wisdom to his son. This is shown in a plethora of ways ‘don’t deal in lies’ which is simply read as advice for an innocent child. However, despite the general and personalised concern on his son, the narrator goes on to contradict the sentimental feel of the poem by talking about war and becoming more focused on patriotic views than his son. ‘To serve your turn long after they’re gone’ implies going to war but the farther is not saying it in a conditional way and also talks about death which is less supportive than before. Although war would be a topic to talk about during this time he goes on to end the poem with ‘And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!’. This is a very strong minded statement as it suggest that if his son does not go to war he wont be a man which is obviously important to his dad as there is a capital on the word ‘Man’. The poet further emphasizes this statement by using a caesura which gives a powerful and strong importance to it and it is also extremely jingoistic.
    A further link to the fathers views on war in seen through ‘Triumph and Disaster’ which shows he see’s the two as equal importance as they both have capital letters. ‘Disaster’ is symbolizing war and ‘Triumph’ could communicate the end of war or similarly the ups experienced in life. These capitals also carry a constant thought throughout the poem which is a significant use of enjambment.
    Although this poem is aimed at a child , which we can see though the uses of rhyme and makes the poem seem specified for the son, there is an overwhelming use of “you” or “your” which is consistent within the poem and really has the affect of breaking out of the poem and speaking to the reader directly. This could be used to further emphasize the moral of war making you a man which is aimed at the general male public to give the poem a strong male dominated theme and to highlight that war is a topic that relates to everyone and not only his son so the experience knowledge is aimed at all.

  7. Profile photo of Lauren McCorkell says:

    The poem ‘If -‘ by Rudyard Kipling is a poem of which represents great power but irony in the same manor.

    We can first analyse the structure of the poem as if you look at it carefully you will be able to see how it is just one big complex sentence, the only finishing piece of punctuation is the exclamation mark at the end of the entire poem. This shows how all of the ideas are interlinked in the poem as they are all one thought. The purposefulness of making the poem one big complex sentences is to keep the pace of the poem up and to show how this thought is complex and in-depth. Secondly, the rhyme in the poem plays on the fact that he is not addressing a man but someone who wants to be one. The rhyme scheme is an ABABCDCD pattern making the poem flow well and therefore suitable for children. Kipling could be in fact addressing his son who would have been young at the time the poem was written.

    Using the word ‘If’ repeatedly throughout the poem gives the strong statements within it appear to have a weak edge. This is probably because ‘If’ is a conditional word. All the statements are conditional on the promise that if completed ‘Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,/ And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!”. The entire poem of conditions is suspended on the last two lines. However, what you could pull out from the poem is that maybe this is an impossible dream, could anyone actually be a man if those are the conditions of which you have to complete to become one. It’s almost an impossibility to become the perfect man in Kipling’s mind as it would take such an inner strength to do so. Maybe the idea is that no one is truly a ‘Man’.

    The poem is some what ironic as it was used for many patriotic speeches to tell men to fight for their country and their beliefs, it was mainly used for an advertisement for the First World War for new soldiers, however, Kipling’s son died in WWI. Kipling’s son was never able to become a man because he followed his Father’s advice and consequently died. This gives an entirely different context to the poem as you could say the poem is satirical. The irony of his death makes you further question if achieving this perfect image of manhood is really worth it.

    The poem frequently mentions the point of not missing opportunities “If you can think – and not make thoughts your master” and “If you can fill the unforgiving minute/ With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run”. These quotations both imply that being a man is about ceasing the moment and living for opportunity, if you miss opportunities you are not worthy of manhood. This is one of the bigger themes of the poem and makes the reader think about not wasting a second of time regretting life and things previously done but to think about all the things they can still achieve and do. The fact that Rudyard Kipling thinks like this shows how he may be insecure about his past and wants to ensure his son does not make the same mistakes as he does.

  8. Profile photo of charlie says:

    If- written by Rudyard Kipling written in 1910 after the Boer war which was the last war to be technologically advanced. 1910 was also when the industrial revolution was happening. The title of the poem ‘If’ is a conditional word which adds uncertainty to if the son will become a man. Rudyard uses the word ‘you’ in repetition to keep the reader involved in the poem and also to emphasise that the poem is addressing his son and this was written as advice to his son.

    The poem is seen as jingoistic and used as a speech said to the army because it is very patriotic. The poem has an ironic nature because hos son died during the war even though the poem is saying about his son becoming a man but now cannot. The poem says ‘don’t give way to hating’ which portrays that his son is very strong mentally and does not let hate get the better of him. The use of personification ‘if you can meet with Triumph and Disaster’ and uses the capital letters to highlight the importance of both of them and how both should be treated the same. Triumph has negative connotations which portrays that Triumph is not always good and could bring disaster. The poem has religious images when it says the ‘Will’ which portrays that God is telling the soldiers to hold on. ‘You’ll be a man my son’ relates to the patriarchal society this poem was written in and how being a man gave you power.

    The rhyme scheme is A.B A,B which makes the poem predictable and makes it sound like it is the right thing which could lead to it being manipulative and making his Son do what his father wants him to do.

  9. Profile photo of Deana says:

    This poem teaches and discusses qualities that were desirable to a man during the time of the early 1900’s (before the First World War). It is about male behavior and almost reflects how males ‘should have’ acted at the time. It suggests that men’s behavior should be mature, and respectful. The phrase “If you can…” implies that the poem is written almost in the form of a letter to other men in the world to teach them the qualities that a ‘perfect’ man should possess; if they do not follow this guide then they will never truly become the true man they desire to be. This poem is supposed to be an inspirational and motivational to other young men; it provides them with a set of rules for the life of men to develop into what is seen as the perfect male in society of the time.

  10. Profile photo of Ellie says:

    In the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling the poem itself is just one continuous thought.
    The poem has a rhyme scheme of AB AB CD CD, this connects to how it is aimed at his child so by rhyming it makes it more accessible for the child to fully understand the concept of which his father is saying.
    The last line of the poem sums up what his son will accomplish if he follows this requirements set by his father. “And-which is more- you’ll be a Man, my son!”,this is a very patriarchal comment and by Man beginning with a capital M this portrays how important it is and almost portraying the word man as being a title. Furthermore by the poet mentioning “which is more” this conveys how the most important and for this so be achieved by the son he knows he has accomplished a lot in his
    life and achieved what his father wished of him.

  11. Profile photo of Kerry-Louise Boyne says:

    In the third stanza Kipling uses connotations of God to portray the importance of what he’s saying to his son and the wider society.
    He conveys the importance by capitalising words, ‘Will’ this implies that the will inside him is speaking out and God is usually capitalised so this could be religious imagery relating to God’s will. Furthermore, the stanza ends with the idea that it’s the thought of God inside them that’s helping them carry on,’except the Will which says to them; ‘hold on.” If the idea of will is God then this implies that having a comforting thought inside them is helping them not give up and they’re accepting they can’t do anything about people dying or changing as people which links to the wider thought that the only perfect person is God and maybe we should only confide in Him.
    A prayer is normally one continuous thought that is sometimes seen as hope and a wish, Kipling portrays this idea with the use of enjambment at the end of each line.
    When people loose someone they love they tend to turn to God for comfort; however, in this poem the idea that you shouldn’t dwell on what was and you should keep your head up and move on, ‘never breathe a word about your lose’ this implies that Kipling wants his son to not get distracted and prove he’s a man by not letting things like death affect him.

  12. Profile photo of Hannah Gillespie says:

    The poem If was written by Rudyard Kipling in 1910. It was inspired by the Boer War, which was the last war not to involve advanced weaponry, so there were no mass killings.

    If we firstly look at the title, ‘If’ we can see that the repetition of this word stops it from being a basic poem. Also, the use of conditional words gives it a weak edge and adds uncertainty to the advice the poem seems to be giving. For example, the first line says “If you can keep your head” which is a metaphor for staying calm and then at the beginning of the next stanza it says, “If you can dream – and not make dreams your master.” This conveys advice about not letting your dreams takeover your life and do not be led by your desires. This entire poem seems to be advice; however we don’t find out to who the advice is too until the last two lines. “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!” Every piece of advice within this poem refers to the last two lines and this means they are extremely important. The use of caesura in these last two lines gives it power and emphasis. We also see that the advice is from a father to his son which is highly patriarchal.

  13. Profile photo of Phoebe Cushion says:

    The poem ‘If’ written by Rudyard Kipling, was originally written for the purpose of advising Kipling’s son on the correct way to live life.
    The poem is very patriotic as it was written in 1910, after the Boer was and just before WW1. The fact that the purpose of the poem was to advice Kipling’s son is ironic because the inspiration created by the poem meant that the he went into the WW1 and was subsequently killed. This is ironic because perhaps he would not have died if the poem had not been written.
    The last line is the most important because the whole continuous thought of the poem has been leading up to it. “You’ll be a Man,my son!”, conveys that if the son follows all of the advice that has been given to him he will become a man. This suggests that Kipling feels that being a ‘man’ is a privilege that has to be earned and is not just being a male.
    This line further exemplifies the irony of the son’s death because the advice that was meant to make him become a man actually prevented him from ever being one.
    The rhyme scheme of the poem is AB AB CD CD, which makes the advice Kipling is giving seem correct to a greater extent because it causes the poem to become fitting and predictable.

  14. Profile photo of Evelina Peterson says:

    The poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling was originally written at heart to his son, giving him a guide through life; no matter what obstacles are put in front of you, you can overcome them and achieve your best at anything you put your mind to. The use of rhyme and rhythm is used in order to make the poem specified for the son. Furthermore, the use of “you, and your” gives a sense of direction, and that the poet is addressing the poem with patriotic and motivational speech. “If you can dream – and not make dreams your master” The writer portrays his beliefs that it is important to have dreams and goals, but at the same time, they should not take over your life; relating the events in the Boer war. The poet further on stresses the idea of “Triumph and Disaster” by saying that his son should learn from his mistakes. The use of capitalisation of these words further highlights their importance, portraying the idea that even when you get knocked down by something in life, you can get up and fight back. Further on, the poem can somewhat come across as being partly ironic, especially as the use of juxtaposition is used throughout the poem. “You’ll be a Man, my son” further connotes the idea that becoming a man will give you power. This gives the idea that if the reader follows the commands given by Kipling, then they will achieve the honour of becoming a “Man”.

  15. Profile photo of Felicity Hale says:

    In the last section of the poem the tension built-up throughout is finally released:”If you can fill the unforgiving minute/With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run/Yours is the Earth and everything that’s n it/And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!” The last line is the passing down of knowledge and wisdom from father to son. This is the first time the reader realises the poem is not directed at themselves, but the person who is talkings son.This gives the reader a feeling of hope for the younger child, but also are able to take away the message from the poem as for so long it feels like it is aimed towards them-self.

  16. Profile photo of Georgina King says:

    ‘If-‘ is a poem written in 1910, just after the Boer War, by Rudyard Kipling. The poem in its entirety is a check-list to becoming a man, written by Kipling for his son. Consequently, the poetic and literary techniques used within the poem are that to convey warnings and advice. A large amount of caesura is used within the poem thus linking each pair of lines within the ABABCDCD rhyme scheme to the final two in the last stanza. This portrays the importance of each individual piece of advice to becoming “a Man, my son!” and creates the reader’s understanding of the poem as a check-list. The rhyme scheme used makes the poem better addressed to a child as it is repetitive and predictable, in contrast to the whole poem being portrayed as a continuous thought through the use of enjambment.
    Despite ‘If-‘ being a jingoistic poem, the poet’s son died during WWI and his body was never found. Consequently, the poem has irony due to the poet’s son never fulfilling becoming a man. In addition to this, the poem was used to encourage people to join the war, giving the poem an opposing affect to its content as many men encouraged to join the war by the poem would have fallen to the same fate as Kipling’s son; many would have not fulfilled becoming a man. The uncertainty of the word ‘If-‘ may first be overlooked as the poem contains many bold claims however, it is important as it weakens the poem, implying that life is still uncertain and becoming a man may never be fulfilled.

  17. Profile photo of Jake Leggat says:

    Throughout the poem ‘If’, many examples of juxtaposition can be found. One of the main examples of this juxtaposition can be found when Kipling writes ‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster’. He has personified the words ‘Triumph’ and ‘Disaster’ by using CAPS, and this gives both things a sense of importance. However, by putting the words next to each other the poet is saying that you should treat them the same, and many that in life you can’t have one without the other. Therefore they are both as important as each other and that is why he has decided to give both words a capital letter.

  18. Profile photo of amy p says:

    The poem ‘if’ is a very patriotic poem, written by Rudyard Kipling in 1910. Many features in the poem represent how society was in the early 20th century, for example the word “broken,” represents the broken divide in society between the social classes. Furthermore the caesura next to the word mirrors it. Also, the final words of the poem are “my son,” portraying how Britain was a patriarchal society.

  19. Profile photo of Brooke Roberts says:

    The poem ‘If’ by Rudard Kipling written in 1910, just before the first world war, is a speech adressed to his son.

    The repetition of the conditional word ‘If’, which is also the title, emphasises how Kipling is portraying all the conditions following the ifs as a strong possiblity. Althought this sense of possibility is adresses to hus son, the readers of the poem also feel a strong connection to it. It also has the effect of, in the end, appearing as ‘you can’ due to repitition, which is a definite action opposed to something you may or may not do.

    Also, with the first three stanxas and most of the forth being examples of thins the son could do, the final two lines are of much importance. The ending lines ‘Yours is the erath and erything that’s in it, And- qhich is more – you’ll be a man my son.’ Them tw lines could infact link to every line in the poem. The fact that he kept the importance to the end could be see as a portrayal that only those who are willing to go through ‘ifs’ and make them possible reach their goals, which in this case is to become a man.

  20. Profile photo of Jessica mccullagh says:

    The poem “if” by Rudyard Kipling in a whole is a man questioning his son on what he thinks is achievable to become a man. This farther, son relationship is mirrored throughout the poem are that to convey warnings and advice. For example some of the advice is “keep your head” “trust yourself” “nor lose the common touch” this suggest to the reader that the son is becoming a man and his father has took it upon himself to give advice. This also suggests that the father is moderately old and is nearing the end of life, thus helping his son with his knowledge and experience. Additionally the father is attempting to motivate his son through life, by using the word “if”, which is an unconfirmed word, Kipling is denoting that if all that the farther has said is done then “you’ll be a man”.

  21. Profile photo of jenna says:

    Throughout the poem “If” the author Rudyard Kipling is testifying what a boy should do to become a man. “If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you” is a prime example of the author weakening a strong statement by the inclusion of the word “If”. The word “If” illustrates a lack of confidence in the person, an uncertainty that the person can do whatever the statement may describe. We know that the poem is written by a father to his son so this could imply that the father has little faith in his son.
    The poem has a rhyme scheme of A,B,A,B,C,D,C,D. This rhyming throughout makes it more child suitable which links with the idea that the author has written it for his son who has not yet reached adulthood.
    The whole poem relies on the last line. “You’ll be a man, my son!” The poem is describing actions and decisions that the son could make and in the last line the author demonstrates the result of these actions if the son has chosen correctly to carry them out. This could convey that the father is teaching his son how to embrace adulthood and become a man as he feels as though his son needs guidance.

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