IF - Rudyard Kipling - an appreciation

IF - revisited by Paraglider

If you avoid the singular in letters
And pepper all your prose with 'them' and 'they';
If you accept the cattle as your betters
And hamper the transporters on their way;
If you can dine on lentil stew, and potter
With mushroom compost on the windowsill
And, loving coffee, be content with water,
Because of exploitation in Brazil;

If you can spot the sex of 'J.S. Aitken'
And never err with Mrs, Ms or Miss
And if you do, admit that you're mistaken
For not being psychic - woefully remiss;
If you can dress yourself in polyester
And shun the merest non-synthetic thread
And aim to be an ethical investor
With shares as solid as your wholemeal bread;

If you, in your opinions, follow fashion,
Ignoring logic, thought and common sense;
If you espouse equality with passion
And take redundancy as recompense;
If you adopt the manner of a loser
In case to win betrays a lust for power
And see in every husband an abuser
Who's merely waiting his appointed hour;

If you control your every word, while seeming
To monitor your every conscious thought
And lie awake at night for fear of dreaming
In ways that you had really better not;
If you rebuke your family for their laughter
And choose your friends by quota, not for fun,
Then you will win approval, ever after,
And, which is more, you'll be Correct, my son.

Rudyard Kipling

"a better man than I am"
"a better man than I am"

IF - by Rudyard Kipling

The original of my affectionate pastiche needs no introduction. It has been criticised widely, sometimes reasonably but more often ignorantly. Kipling, and IF, are not threatened by their critics or parodists. The poem was voted number one in the UK publication "The Nation's Favourite Poems". It is not my own favourite poem, but it was my father's. He used to quote it to his classes (and he was a PE teacher, not an English teacher). There's a lesson there too. Kipling's IF has wide appeal. Like Burns before him, Kipling wrote masterful but accessible and genuinely popular poetry.

IF, by Kipling, second stanza:

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 these 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:

And the famous closing:

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!

More by this Author

Comments 21 comments

Michael Paskel 9 years ago

Thank you kindly. I'm gonna kick around your hubs as well.

And you are very welcome to take me to task about anything I've written. I can take it.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 9 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

I didn't doubt it for a minute - cheers!

Guru-C profile image

Guru-C 9 years ago

Erudite and interesting hub, Paraglider!

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 9 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks Guru-C - I was going to write more about Kipling himself but I got distracted into reading about him instead!

William F. Torpey profile image

William F. Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

You're a better man than I am, Paraglider.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 9 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks William!

Q. Do you like Kipling?

A. How do you kipple?

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Paraglider, I've just discovered this one. It's a gem!

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks Aya - it doesn't get a lot of visitors!

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

Well, here's at least one more visitor for you!

I have just discovered that the inspiration for this poem was Leander Starr Jameson of Jameson Raid fame.

I'm no Kipling fan (I can't Kipple!), I have to confess, being repulsed by his politics chiefly (see how I let my prejudice show!). But this poem is grand.

I like your parody too.

Love and peace


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Tony - I'd say he was very much 'of his time', politically, but is easily targeted simply because he wrote so lucidly. Certainly some (but not all) of his ideas would be abhorrent on a modern stage. His verse was masterful though; no-one can take that from him.

Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK

Hi Paraglider, I never saw this first time round, but I saw it pop up in Hubtivity and thought I'd have a look. I like your version very much, and it's good to be reminded of such an excellent poem. I've always liked Kipling ever since I was introduced to the Jungle Book as a child. Kipling lived in Sussex, and his house ('Batemans') at Burwash is well worth a visit.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Amanda - The Just So Stories were among my mum's favourites for reading to us as kids, and as mentioned in the hub, dad was fond of quoting from 'If'. So I was well kippled as a wean too :)

tonymac04 profile image

tonymac04 6 years ago from South Africa

He was indeed! Just reading his autobiography at the moment and it's quite entertaining at times. Though the "abhorrent" ideas do come through rather loudly sometimes!

Love and peace


lizzieBoo profile image

lizzieBoo 5 years ago from England

Well done for your clever and funny homage to Kipling. I discovered it after publishing my own, somewhat Hovis and Elgar sentimental muse.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks lizzieBoo - Hovis and Elgar should not be forgotten!

maven101 profile image

maven101 5 years ago from Northern Arizona

This is a marvelous Hub !!...Interesting, funny, and brief...Voted up with both thumbs...

I must admit to memorizing Kipling's poem which I recited to my son on his 16th birthday...It became a tradition in the family, for both boys and girls, to recite " If " on their 16th birthdays...I may have to introduce, with your permission of course, your anti-PC version to my future generations...

Keep yourself safe wherever you are in the Middle East, my friend...Larry

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks Larry. When I wrote this pastiche I sent it to BBC Radio 4 who, much to my surprise, read the whole thing out on the Today programme.

I'm still in Qatar which is trouble free, but terrible things are happening in Bahrain, just across the water.

And of course, feel free to introduce my 'If' to anyone you like :)

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 4 years ago from Taos, NM

I have aways liked "If" by Rudyard Kipling and I am an English teacher and I did quote it in my classes. I think it has great common sense advice for everyone to hear.

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 4 years ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks Suzette - I agree. It may not be fashinable any more but that's hardly a criterion.

Ebin 16 months ago

What Is The appreciation Of this Poem?

somebody 3 months ago

Why should you write if you don't like this poem?

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article