What self-respecting blog about manliness and conservatism could exist without a few posts about Rudyard Kipling and his poetry?
For those who aren’t as well acquainted with Rudyard Kipling, Kipling was a famous English author who wrote several important stories like Gunga Din, The Man Who Would Be King, and the Jungle Book. He also wrote many poems, many of them my favourites. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907, the youngest to ever win it.
Today I’ll be looking at his poem “If”. It’s perhaps his most famous poem. He wrote it after the failed Jameson Raid in 1895 during the Boer War in South Africa. The commander of the raid, Leander Star Jameson, became something of a hero for his courage and daring in attempting the raid and the integrity he showed by taking full responsibility for its failure. Kipling saw the manly virtues that Leander Star Jameson displayed and wrote this poem to teach these virtues to his son, John Kipling.
Without Further ado:
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!
I don’t think there is a better list anywhere of what it takes to be a Man. It has everything, stoicism, wisdom, kindness, and strength, everything that a Man needs to be respected.
Now, no one will ever perfectly embody all of these lofty characteristics. It’s in the trying to live like this that males will become better men.
The virtues that Kipling saw in Jameson are hard to find nowadays. Look at our leaders, a great deal of them don’t even have one of these virtues. Imagine how much better our society and civilization would be if we at least tried to be the man that Kipling instructs his boy to be.