If . . .

By, Donna M. Monnig

If ever there was a poem to live by, arguably it would be Rudyard Kipling’s complex work, simply entitled, “If . . .”. It’s a practical recipe for how to live a good life and be a good person; trust in yourself when others doubt you, without getting angry at those who do doubt you; don’t lie or hate even when you’re lied about and hated; don’t gloat over your appearance or knowledge; think and dream but don’t be a slave to your passions; remain steadfast whether in the midst of Triumph or Disaster, not becoming too proud nor too bitter regardless of which one you face; accept that people will twist your words for their benefit; if you take a risk be ready to accept the consequences without complaint; be social without sacrificing your morals and virtues; be able to associate with people of power just as well as with people of poverty, recognizing that all people have worth, but not giving too much to any single one,  and hold on even when you think you have nothing left.


By, Rudyard Kipling
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:
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:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it all 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!’
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!

Kipling’s poem is both thought provoking and beautiful. It is also very popular, in 1995 it was voted as the most beloved poem in Great Britain, one hundred years after it was written.

Anyone who’s a fan of the old TV series MASH might also remember  Captain Benjamin Franklin Hawkeye Pierce and Captain B.J. Hunnicutt, quoting from Kipling’s poem in the season four episode, Welcome to Korea.






If Hawkeye and B.J. actually took Kipling’s words to heart, may be another story altogether! Regardless, “If . . .” is a wonderful poem with a strong meaning.

“If . . .” is one of the most beloved poems in Great Britain, is it one of yours? If it is share it with your friends.


About Donna M. Monnig

Donna M. Monnig is a published poet, aspiring novelist, freelance writer, a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, and is a cowgirl at heart.
This entry was posted in Other Poems, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to If . . .

  1. My own son seems a little unhappy. Maybe I’ll print out this poem and put it on his wall! It has great advice.


  2. Pingback: If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.. « hungarywolf

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