IF by Rudyard Kipling - still relevant to today's society?

Earl_of_Rochester

Ad Honoris
Feb 2011
13,609
Perambulating in St James' Park
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!




When I was teaching in China I printed this poem off in Chinese to give the kids an idea of what I thought it means to be a good person. I suppose some parts may appear quite alien to Eastern eyes as it's a Western poem and riddled with advice on how to be a good Christian chap in imperial Britain.

Does it have anything to teach the modern world though? Should teachers even bother to touch it when today's society is all about the individual, sexual fluidity and materialism? How many people might be offended I wonder? And what would a modern variant look like?

"And what's more, you'll be a gender inclusive being, my lbgt offspring.'


It seems that every line of the poem goes against what modern society represents. Is there any point in showing it today or is it just an old poem which belongs in the dustbin of history?
 
Sep 2012
942
Prague, Czech Republic
It seems that every line of the poem goes against what modern society represents.
What modern society represents to you, perhaps, but I can see very little in ther objectionable to modern sensibilities. That's why they use the poem in adverts.

Maybe this bit:

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;
would seem inappropriate to some, but that's not something that can be blamed on modern society. Almost all gambling was illegal in the UK in Kipling's day, whereas last time I was there I was struck by the fact that 90% of TV adverts are for gambling.
 

David Vagamundo

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
4,439
Atlanta, Georgia USA
Still relevant. It's been years since I read it, and rereading it, I'm still inspired.

If people today are offended by it, as some are offended by morality or by Christianity, that's their problem.
 

Linschoten

Ad Honoris
Aug 2010
16,412
Welsh Marches
What modern society represents to you, perhaps, but I can see very little in ther objectionable to modern sensibilities. That's why they use the poem in adverts.

Maybe this bit:

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;
would seem inappropriate to some, but that's not something that can be blamed on modern society. Almost all gambling was illegal in the UK in Kipling's day, whereas last time I was there I was struck by the fact that 90% of TV adverts are for gambling.

I think this is intended as a metaphor rather than as a reference to gambling in any literal sense.
 
Sep 2012
942
Prague, Czech Republic
I think this is intended as a metaphor rather than as a reference to gambling in any literal sense.
I know, I'm just trying to figure out which bits it could possibly be that anyone's supposed to take offence at The concept of the thread is all a bit odd. We have a popular poem that is commonly used in modern pop culture, about which nobody has expressed any offence, and yet there's discussion about 'modern society' being offended by it.

It's all a bit Major Misunderstanding, isn't it?