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IF…

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 breath 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!

Rudyard Kipling

This was one of my father’s favourite poems, and I have read it many times since the day he introduced me to it as a child. I think it is packed full of wisdom, and has many suggestions for leading a decent life.

At different periods in my life, certain lines have had greater significance than others. At the moment these lines stand out for me, for obvious reasons, I suppose:-

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 breath a word about your loss;

I haven’t managed to never breathe a word about my loss over the past couple of years, but I do feel that I am doing pretty well on building things up again.

This poem was voted Britain’s Favourite Poem in a 1995 BBC opinion poll.

Find out more about Rudyard Kipling at the two links below. He was also well known for stories such as The Jungle Book and The Man Who Would Be King, which is one of my favourite movies ever! He also created the characters Gunga Din and Thomas Atkins (who was the genesis of the term ‘Tommy’ commonly used to refer to British soldiers), as well as coining the phrase “The Thin Red Line”.

Wikipedia: Rudyard Kipling

BBC: Rudyard Kipling

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