The work was written in 1895 and first published in the Brother Square Toes chapter of Rewards and Fairies, Kipling’s 1910 collection of short stories and poems. It has been translated into at least twenty-seven different languages, likely many more. Also, in 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English language writer to receive the prize.
My own”back story” on this poem is as follows.
When life had thrown me a few unexpected challenges a few years ago, my favorite aunt, Virginia Miller, (her photo is to the right) sent me a copy of this poem for reflection, inspiration and a buoy for my occasionally sagging spirits.
She told me the story of how her father, (my grandfather) Seth Jacobs – owner, editor and publisher of the Brighton Argus Newspaper starting from the late 1800’s and continuing for over 40 years – used to read this poem to her and Wilbur Jacobs (her brother and my father) when they were youngsters.
In 2009, when she saw my posting of this writing by Kipling, she emailed me, saying:
“Oh, dear Dan, this is so wonderful. You have described the situation perfectly. You will never know how much it means that this poem has influenced you. The substance of this poem says it all, doesn’t it? It seems to me that I can still remember sitting around the living room and hearing papa reciting this, and other poems to us. I am so happy that it means so much to you, as it does to me. I love this blog. YOU ARE GOOD!” – Love you, Virginia
As of this writing, Virginia is now 95 years old. The photo above was taken on her 90th birthday – and as you can tell, she’s still sharp as a tack and as pretty and full of life as ever she was. She wanted me to have this poem for my own immediate benefit but also as a bit of legacy and a taste of history of what life with my grandfather was like.
I’m very happy she did as this poem has been and continues to be an inspiration to me; as relevant today as the day it was written. You now share this with me. – daniel w. jacobs
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!
Note: a video of Dennis Hopper reciting “IF” can be viewed at: http://www.encyclopedia.com/YouTubeDisplay.aspx?videoid=3AJqESdw7xs&topicid=19526&mediaid=2308442