"If" by Rudyard Kipling (1 Viewer)

Johannes

Founding member
I found this poem when I was young and dumb, very, and it hung on my walls for years. It always seemed the essence of being "wise" (whatever that means) to me.

Today I stumbled over it by accident and now, slowly working towards just being dumb, i notice there`s a great potential of let's call it corniness in the thing, you can't deny. Especially the ending.

Nevertheless. Do you or don't you think that this is one of the most beautiful pomes ever written?


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
 
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mjp

Founding member
I can't take rhyming poems seriously. When I read them I always feel like I'm in a Victorian mansion somewhere with a bunch of old ladies in corsets and bustles listening to a visitor from abroad reading poetry as the week's entertainment. Tea, stale cookies and starched collars. People reeking of sweat and mothballs. Riding those bicycles around with the ten foot tall front wheels...that kind of thing.



But that's just me.
 

number6horse

okyoutwopixiesoutyougo
"...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!"..."

These lines have new resonance for me. On July 31, a good friend of mine was badly injured in a work-related accident and lost both his legs just below the knee. His entire back required a skin graft due to 3rd degree burns. He has demonstrated a remarkable force of will in recovering and was discharged yesterday.

This poem is a good reminder of the attitudes and characterisitcs people need to endure crises of all sorts. It turns out my friend had them all along.
 

chronic

old and in the way
I can't take rhyming poems seriously. When I read them I always feel like I'm in a Victorian mansion somewhere with a bunch of old ladies in corsets and bustles listening to a visitor from abroad reading poetry as the week's entertainment. Tea, stale cookies and starched collars. People reeking of sweat and mothballs. Riding those bicycles around with the ten foot tall front wheels...that kind of thing.

The only rhyming poems that I really like are all by Dr. Seuss.
 

Father Luke

Founding member
The Little Boy and the Old Man by Shel Silverstein

Said the little boy, "Sometimes I drop my spoon."
Said the old man, "I do that too."
The little boy whispered, "I wet my pants."
"I do that too," laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, "I often cry."
The old man nodded, "So do I."
"But worst of all," said the boy, "it seems
Grown-ups don't pay attention to me."
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
"I know what you mean," said the little old man.
 

Johannes

Founding member
Yes, rhymers suck.

There was a famous German Poet, Robert Gernhardt, who wrote something like that the goal and the trap of rhyming is that it's only good if it seems that both, the writer and the reader, have forgotten that it's a rhymer. Those are the only good ones.

Then, with this one I even like the flow an rhythm. But it's not my mother-tongue, I think I read it kind of lyric-like, as a song or something.

The Little Boy and the Old Man by Shel Silverstein

Said the little boy, "Sometimes I drop my spoon."
...

Thats a good one, FL.
 
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Gerard K H Love

Appreciate your friends
I was always confused by what was supposed to rhyme with what in poetry. In English class I couldn't do it. So once I started reading Bukowski like 2 years ago it opened up a whole new world and has made it easier to read and understand rhymers.
Those are nice poems, sweat mothballs and all.
 
Good poem, Johannes, in keeping with the literary conventions of its day. It's good to see what has sincerely influenced you over the years and what may have been a sincere bond of understanding between you and your father - this poem about becoming a Man - beyond whatever merits it may have as literature. The purpose of rhymers was I believe partly to make them easier to memorize - maybe you did - and readers of the day expected order and symmetry in poetry, before free verse came into vogue. But one thing is for sure: Bukowski's father probably never read Kipling or he wouldn't have been the insensitive jerk he was to his introverted son. You probably fared a lot better. Best wishes.
 

Johannes

Founding member
Yes, while this poem (or any poem at all, that is) never played consciously in the relationship with my father, as far as I can tell, it sort of rushed through me, the first time I`ve read it.

I thought it "beautiful", as dumb as that may sound, and still do today. Still, it's especially this father-son-advice-thing which I somehow find dubios now. Can't really explain it, it somehow seems put-on to me. Maybe it'd be better if it was adressed to nobody and everybody, without this particular context. I don't know.

Then: Did you realize, that the whole poem seems to consist of almost one very long sentence, for whatever that may mean. Nothing, probably.

And what has always drawn me strongly were the lines I could never fully understand, because of it not being my mother tongue. It's:

"If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run"

My interpretation always was: "The unforgiving minute" because time is running and we all are going to die and bla bla therefore shouldn't waste the minute, because it's not "forgiving" ... and "sixty seconds worth of distance run" is whatever of (seeming) importance we fill this "minute" with in order to make it "worth of distance running" ... Don't know if anyone knows what I mean :) ... Damn language barriers again.

Does this make sense to you? I always wanted to ask a native speaker about this, now this is my big chance.
 
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Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
And what has always drawn me strongly were the lines I could never fully understand, because of it not being my mother tongue. It's:

"If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run"

My interpretation always was: "The unforgiving minute" because time is running and we all are going to die and bla bla therefore shouldn't waste the minute, because it's not "forgiving" ... and "sixty seconds worth of distance run" is whatever of (seeming) importance we fill this "minute" with in order to make it "worth of distance running" ... Don't know if anyone knows what I mean :) ... Damn language barriers again.

I interpret it in the same way, Johannes, for whatever it's worth...
 
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...

"If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run"

...

Hi Johannes,

Enjoyed your experience of this Kipling poem very much. Perhaps everyone has some bit of verse they remember from childhood and it had some impact. (I know I do.)

In addition to yours and Bukfan's comments, the feeling I get from these lines is slightly different. To me it suggests that if one is going to do something - anything - then go all the way. Give it your full measure of effort and go the distance even if difficulties arise - Give it 100 percent and you'll somehow have the satisfaction of your efforts even if you happen not to succeed - It's not necessarily about winning or the goal but running a good race, a race that you can be proud of like a father would be proud of his son, no matter what... Perhaps something like that. Good lines.

Best wishes, Poptop
 

Johannes

Founding member
In addition to yours and Bukfan's comments, the feeling I get from these lines is slightly different. To me it suggests that if one is going to do something - anything - then go all the way. Give it your full measure of effort and go the distance even if difficulties arise - Give it 100 percent and you'll somehow have the satisfaction of your efforts even if you happen not to succeed - It's not necessarily about winning or the goal but running a good race, a race that you can be proud of like a father would be proud of his son, no matter what... Perhaps something like that. Good lines.

Very interesting. And possible for sure.

Thanks.
 
Rhyming

I couldn't agree more with the whole stilted and hackneyed view of rhyming poetry. That whole sing-songy thing is childish to me. I also despise the whole broken sentence structure that so many rhymers have to employ so as to get the ends of the lines to rhyme.

"My watch I wound".....Who the hell are you now? Yoda?

Having said that, though, there are a few instances of rhyme that really move me. "If" is definitely one, another that comes to mind is Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle"
 
Hi Everyone, I have always preferred free verse myself, hence the affinity for Bukowski's mastery of the form. We most likely could not have the free form without the structured forms that came before; they were born out of it; an example of how poets will always attempt, to one extent or another, to break free of the forms they are taught or forced to learn, as Bukowski and many of his contemporaries were. Anti-structure created a clearer & more powerful way of expressing ideas and feelings,and WORDS, after
having those strict rules placed upon poetry for so long. It's quite possible that after many, many
yearsof total free form verse, that the 'New Bukowski's' will find themselves 'evolutionizing' poetry once again by returning to stricter, possiblely
even rhyming forms.
I mean who knows?? Having that said, I really do think that the Kipling poem is an excellent example of how rhyming poetry can be done well, at least inside of the era in which it was created. Thank You Johannes for posting it. And Father Luke, Shel Silverstien ROCKS.
My qustion now to the rest of you fine folks is this: how do you feel about rhyming when it comes to musical lyrics and childrens literature? CRB:)
 

number6horse

okyoutwopixiesoutyougo
OK - I've been tempted by this thread title long enough.
Everybody has their breaking point.
Don't blame anyone.
I just snapped.....

IF

If a picture paints a thousand words,
Then why can't I paint you?
The words will never show the you I've come to know.
If a face could launch a thousand ships,
Then where am I to go?
There's no one home but you,
You're all that's left me too.
And when my love for life is running dry,
You come and pour yourself on me.

If a man could be two places at one time,
I'd be with you.
Tomorrow and today, beside you all the way.
If the world should stop revolving spinning slowly down to die,
I'd spend the end with you.
And when the world was through,
Then one by one the stars would all go out,
Then you and I would simply fly away.

(c)David Gates and Bread circa 197dumbass
 

Digney in Burnaby

donkeys live a long time
My qustion now to the rest of you fine folks is this: how do you feel about rhyming when it comes to musical lyrics and childrens literature? CRB:)

I remember:

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?

He'd chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could,
If a woodchuck could chuck wood.

Good grade two poem, or maybe it was grade one.

And, a few years later, the bad stereo playing:

I'm a street walking cheetah
with a heart full of napalm

I'm a runaway son
of the nuclear a-bomb.

Good grade 11 song.

Rhyming worked for me at times.
 

hank solo

Just practicin' steps and keepin' outta the fights
Moderator
Founding member
I just snapped.....

IF

If a picture paints a thousand words,
Then why can't I paint you? [...]

(c)David Gates and Bread circa 197dumbass

If you're going there, baby - you really want to go here... ? :cool:
 
I had to memorize "If" in sixth grade, along with Robert Frost's "Stopping by the Woods on A Snow Evening,' Walt Whitman's "My Captain, my Captain," Henley's "Invictus,' Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade," Poe's "Annabel Lee," Wordsworth's "I wandered lonely as a cloud." etc. Odd because I still remember alot of the lines from these poems forty years later. The lines from "If" that come back to me sometimes are "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same." I've often wondered whether Kipling absorbed this philosophy from India, where I believe he was born. I mean the idea of dharma, of soldiering on (forgive metaphor--"Gunga Din" hasn't held up so well...) in a kind of detached, neutral way without reacting either too negatively or positively to life's vicissitudes.
Probably in general I would say I prefer non-rhyming poems, for many of the reasons stated above. Walt Whitman came as a revelation to me--I loved his long, free lines. And the strait-jacket of English poetry and archaisms--think of the opening of Shelley's "Ode to a Skylark": "Hail to thee blithe (bright?--Ive forgotten) spirit, Bird thou never wert!" and compare the wonderful, casual opening of Leaves of Grass:" A child came to me and asked what is the grass". I like the American directness and lack of artificiality here,which of course is why I was ready for Buk...
But these formal questions are so time and culture bound--we can't really fault these guys for writing in the style they did--that's how it was done in those days....
OK, and I dug Rimbaud because he also said it direct and raw and lovely: "Jadis, si me souviens bien, ma vie etait un festin ou tous les coeurs s'ouvraient et tous les vin coulaient.." (garbled, but approximate) "Once, if I remember properly, my life was a party where all hearts opened and all wines flowed") or Je pisse vers le ciels bruns" I piss towards the brown clouds" or "J'ai seul le clef de cette parade sauvage " I alone have the key to this savage parade, etc etc.
Well, Emily Dickinson was right: you know it's poetry if you feel like the top of your head is being blown off--rhyming or not.
 

Johannes

Founding member
Frosts "Stopping by the Woods on A Snow Evening" would be another example of very interesting rhyming, although it's a little, errm, "mainstream"? :)

But I guess whoever read it will remind the last stanza, which is truly immortal.

Nice post David. Thanx. Rimbaud was never fully for me, tho I like certain passages, but I guess I'd have to have him in French and my French sucks. Somehow the translation always tired me out.
 
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This poem was read out at my Grandmothers funeral a couple months ago (her favourite poem). As much as I made the effort to know her, (valuing her wisdom and such) it reminded me just how little i really knew her.. I had no idea she had an appreciation for poetry.
Anyway, it hangs on my wall now.
So yeah I like it, but probably because of the memories it holds for myself.. i doubt I would have stumbled across it and loved it otherwise.
 

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