If

If

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 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!

Summary of If

  • Popularity of “If”: Written by an English poet, writer, and essayist, Rudyard Kipling, this poem “If” stands out as an interesting piece of advice. The poem is stated to have been written to pay tribute to the friend of the poet, Leander Starr Jameson. It was written in 1895 or around this time, but it appeared in print format in 1910. Kipling advises his friend that if he keeps himself poised, dreams of the future, and keeps a hold on the nerves, success ultimately comes to him. This wherein lies the beauty and popularity of the poem.
  • “If” As a Representative of Manly Advice: The poet advises his friend in several ways, counting several strategies that if he adopts certain things in life, he will become a good person having a winning streak in his life. He starts by saying that he keeps his head high when all the people around him are frustrated. He goes on to state that when others lie, he must speak the truth and that when others are waiting, he should also join them to look good, wise, and moderate.
    The poet then moves to the dreams saying that he can master his own dreams and become a good strategist in meeting disasters or winning victories. He further advises his friend that when he meets various failures, he starts again and when he keeps himself calm, peaceful, and poised in crowds or in the presence of some regal figure, he becomes reticent, balanced, and sagacious at the most inflaming moments, then he is the man, and the world will reach him out to be ruled.
  • Major Themes in “If”: Balanced thinking, dreams, a virtuous lifestyle, and never losing heart are some of the major themes of the poem “If.” Kipling begins his poem with balanced thinking, advising his readers that if they keep their heads high, clear, and poised, it means they can become sagacious, wise, and moderate. He goes on to say that dreaming is the quality of great spirits, and moving to the direction given in the dreams is the quality of the greatest men. Similarly, when a person does not stop even after multiple failures and does not become showy, touchy, or irritating in different circumstances, it means he stays in himself. This also means that he never loses his heart and takes up this virtuous lifestyle as his way of living. This is how that person becomes a man.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in If

Rudyard Kipling uses various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of his poem. Some of the major literary devices he uses in this poem are as follows.

  1. Anaphora: It is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is repeated at the beginning of the verses. The poem shows the use of “If you can” as an anaphora.
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /a/ and /o/ in “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you” and the sound of /o/ in “And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.”
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /t/ in “talk too” or “treat these two.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /m/ in “If you can dream—and not make dreams your master” and the sound of /s/ in “With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.”
  5. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Rudyard Kipling uses imagery in this poem, such as “With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run”, “If you can wait and not be tired by waiting” and “If you can dream—and not make dreams your master.”
  6. Irony: It means to the contradictory meanings of the words used in different contexts. For example, this verse shows that the advice of the poet is about not being tired by waiting though it is quite tiring, as given in this verse “If you can wait and not be tired by waiting.”
  7. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects that are different in nature. The poet used different metaphors, such as Triumph and Disaster, as if they were two persons who are impostors.
  8. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols, such as a dream, triumph, disaster, knave, fool, and risk, to show the different aspects of life.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in If

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows very good use of formal and poetic diction, but it is also conversational in some places.
  2. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. Rudyard Kipling uses end rhyme in this poem, such as waiting/hating and lies/wise.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the AAABCDCD rhyme scheme in the first stanza, while in the other three, it is ABABCDCD, and this pattern continues until the end.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are four stanzas in this poem, with each comprising eight verses, also known as an octave.
  5. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows a didactic, ironic, and realistic tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote about good people.

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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