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Rudyard Kipling

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Added by: George Middleton
Have you noticed that this poem has only one sentence? Kipling is saying that if you can meet _all_ of his conditions then, and only then can you rule the earth and be a MAN.
In other words there is no way that you are going to make it.
Added by: Karen
true, the entire poem is comprised entirely of one sentence... maybe kipling is just suggesting that the spiritual and mental journey to manhood is a long and complicated one, not impossible.
Added by: keller
i think perhaps Kipling is making a comment on the concept of MAN (weather or not he intends to)... there is something it it that leaves me distant, it is too "middle of the road". Do things but not too deeply or too much. I find it similar to the concept society teaches young men today that their emotions are weaknesses.

So i am lead to agree with George, it is a list of imposibilites... we expect our men to be MEN not Human, a distinction characterised by our glorious faults.
Reading Kipling's "If" in context
Added by: Martha
One of the necessities in understanding this poem is knowing its original place in Kipling's work (Kipling in his biography noted with some rancour that this poem had been "anthologized to weariness".)

"If" is one of the bracketing poems to "Brother Squaretoes", a short story in the book "Rewards and Fairies", one of Kipling's two meditations on English history and destiny ("Puck of Pook's Hill" is the other).

The short story is about George Washington and his courage in resisting the temptation to succumb to the will of the mob and his advisers and fight another war with England.

"If" can be seen as a paean to George Washington as the ideal leader. There are also echoes of the Jamison Raid (an aspect that I believe Kipling also acknowledges in his autobiography).

Kipling loathed mob rule and politics and admired virtuous men of action. Naturally this inclination could be abused (which is why so many attack him for his supposed "imperialism") but I think he had a point . . .

Just my 2 cents FROM a superannuated history major with a fondness for Mr. Kipling and his works . . .
Added by: Mr. A.E. burgin
"If" is a hyperbole of the high expectations put upon the male by society. I don't bellieve Kipling was holding these tasks for men to attain, but rather to aspire to.
Rudyard Kipling - If
Added by: Chiu Wong
I believe the repetition of each sentence beginning with "If you can..." makes me feel there are many impossiblities about this poem. It makes me believe the "Ifs" never end and thus very much so, we are approaching the impossible zone.

I think this poem is about the the lives endured from birth to manhood. That so much burnden is placed on their upbringing to be moulded into a particular/ideal "man". Therefore, it often is the impossible.
Added by: Peter Carter
To be perfectly frank, I think this is probably the most over-rated poem ever written. Though I don't believe that anything in the poem is neccesarily an impossiblity, it is certainly unlikely anyone could lay claim to all the qualities. Now, that wouldn't be so much of a problem, if Kipling made it clear that these were aspirations, but there's something in the tone, in the father-to-son voice that implies that the narrator has already accomplised those things. Afterall, what is a father but a man; what is that man doing but teaching his son to be a man?

I also dislike the line 'If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run'
as a great man once said, 'Squandering a Sunday on a 499 piece jigsaw puzzle doesn't trouble me one little bit." The idea that the human life is 'productive' in any way short of improved general happiness is just bizaree.

IF this poem is supposed to be ironic, then it's rather amusing. If written in earnest, it seems horribly naive and short-sighted.
This poem inspired me as a young teen.
Added by: Fred Bartel
I memorized this poem at age 14. It challenged me to fight alone against all odds - which has had a profound impact upon my life as a citizen, a Christian, and a parent.

I never gave it a moment's concern that no one could meet all the standards. What I needed and benefitted by was the stress upon perserverence and rugged individualism not matter what the odds. In the end I became a good man and an am still growing. Over the past decades I have often been sustained in tough times by thoughts from this and other great literature or verses of music.
Added by: Sam
I think that Kipling is giving us all a goal, something to aim for each day. I don't think anyone will ever be able to make it but if we think about that poem every time we make a decision, it can help us become better people.
Added by: Victoria
Peter Carter- Rather than taking it that Kipling is saying every minute of every day should be productive, I read it as saying that when it really counts- "crunch time" as it were- you can give it your all for as long as is needed. But that is just my interpretation of it.

I agree that "If" is something to try and live your life by; words to hold as ultimate goals, rather than something possible for all. I think that the qualities mentioned in the poem- among them, patience (with other people), humility, honesty and level-headedness- are things most people would agree to be good character traits. The poem can give different goals/mean different things to different people: someone who is already patient can strive to meet the other conditions in the poem, for example.

The third verse does seem (to me) to be descibing the "British stiff upper lip" (taking the knocks and not showing that it has affected you), and the second part of that verse is that part that speaks to me the strongest:
"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!'"
For some reason that part resonates in me- does anyone else feel the same?

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