Tag Archives: Rudyard Kipling

One of My Favourite Poems (‘IF’ by R. Kipling)

Original post from 26/01/2007

The first time I read this poem, I was at school, and I remember well we were preparing to either a quiz or a matinee, so we had to learn an English poem by heart. I believe this was about 13-14 years ago. I also remember that at first I took it simply as a poem by Rudyard Kipling, and only much later – when I was already a student at the University – did I begin to realise that this poem means much more to me. Effectively, with another couple of poems and a few quotations, these lines summarise my approach to things in life.

I shall also give a link to the Russian translation of this poem, by Mikhail Lozinsky. As far as I am concerned, Lozinsky was one of the best ever Russian translators. At the turn of 1930-40s, battling a deadly illness, he had been working on the Russian translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Among his other translations, one of my favourite is definitely Shakespeare’s Hamlet. And, of course, Kipling’s If.

So, enjoy the poem, and if you have got any thoughts or memories about it, do post a comment about these. 🙂

(For Russian translation (“Заповедь”), please follow the link. The text comes after a poem by Coleridge).

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!