Sunday, 3 March 2013

Poetry Reads: If by Rudyard Kipling


One of my favorite poems, If by Rudyard Kipling is a poem about grit, pluck determination and resilience. It is a poem that is very personal to me, reminiscent of my public school days. The following stanza reveals a phase that a lot of us have been through. What makes me wonder is what Kipling must have been through or what urged him to write this poem.

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:

The following stanza encourages one to dream; yet not make ‘dreams’ one’s ‘master’. It urges one to spring to action. The most amazing line here is about courage –


‘If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools’.

The next two lines after the quote speak of having the audacity to start life afresh after everything has been destroyed in one’s life.

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:
The following poem is an echo of resilience and patience; to have lost it all and not to complain – ‘And never breathe a word about your loss’.

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!'

The following stanza summarizes the flavor of the poem. It is what grips a reader of this poem: to be untouched by the crowd and glory and yet retain one’s sanity. And finally, do one’s own thing one needs to do.


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!

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(Article by Kabita Sonowal)

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