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IF - Rudyard Kipling - an appreciation

Updated on February 23, 2017
Paraglider profile image

Dave tends to the formalist tradition in poetry and has work published in several e-zines and poetry sites.

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!

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    • profile image

      somebody 

      2 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Ebin 

      3 years ago

      What Is The appreciation Of this Poem?

    • Paraglider profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

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

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      6 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 imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      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 :)

    • maven101 profile image

      maven101 

      7 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 imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Thanks lizzieBoo - Hovis and Elgar should not be forgotten!

    • lizzieBoo profile image

      lizzieBoo 

      7 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.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      7 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

      Tony

    • Paraglider profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      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 :)

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 

      7 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 imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      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.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      7 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

      Tony

    • Paraglider profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      9 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

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

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

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

    • Paraglider profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      11 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Thanks William!

      Q. Do you like Kipling?

      A. How do you kipple?

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      11 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

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

    • Paraglider profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      11 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

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

    • Guru-C profile image

      Cory Zacharia 

      11 years ago

      Erudite and interesting hub, Paraglider!

    • Paraglider profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      11 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

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

    • profile image

      Michael Paskel 

      11 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.

      M

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