John Keats wrote, Poetry should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance. So it is for me with the poem below. Many years have passed since encountering the Kipling poem below. Last time reading it I was still a young man. The meaning falls upon me with greater weight and deeper meaning now being near the end of my 5th decade and have a son dear to me. For my boy, who is now a man near thirty, I hope all of Kipling’s thoughts will ring true. This entry is dedicated to my son.
“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!
One of the most difficult yet wonderful gifts of my growth in recent years is the ability to feel deeply and openly. It seems every ounce of emotion and sentiment lies just a millimeter below my skin waiting to be brushed up against and set free. While weighty to bear sometimes, I am so very grateful for this heightened ability to feel that makes me more alive than ever before.
Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.
At the link below you can hear Kipling’s poem above read in a distinctive “British accent” as is appropriate since the poet was English.