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.
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!
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