Monday, 28 December 2009

Kipling


Someone gave me a book of poems for Christmas. Apparently, a survey was done asking New Zealanders about their favourite poems and this book contains the top 100. It's an eclectic mix. Lots of James K Baxter, and all the stuff we learned by rote at school, and some nice little whimsies by people like Margaret Mahy; all of The Lady of Shallot and and bits of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner; Fern Hill and Ode to a Grecian Urn and The Tyger and all the usual suspects, including this one from dear old racist, sexist, imperialist Rudyard Kipling. I know it's not very PC but out of all of them, it spoke to my present circumstances the most.

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 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!

4 comments:

Elaine Dent said...

I wish I had read this years ago...or at least before becoming a pastor. PC or not, lots of wise truth there.

Anonymous said...

Hello Kelvin, yes , a great poem written by one of the great minds of that time.It repays careful study.Yeats has been on my mind.Garry,our third son sent an everyman's edition and I am enjoying it.I have long thought that the best of poetry is the best of literature.
Craig.

Anonymous said...

"Racist, sexist, imperialist"...Kipling was a man of his times - its very easy to judge those from former years with our own 20/20 hindsight. In reality he was a falliable human - like us all. It's s a great poem and I often refer back to it when I need some inspiration.

Chris

VenDr said...

True enough Chris. But consider for a moment this stanza from "The White Man's Burden"

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

and consider for a moment his description in the same poem of non European peoples as "...half devil and half child."

This may indeed be quite unexceptional sentiment by the standards of the late 19th century but it is a st of atitudes which have done and continue to do incalculable damage. I think we are right to be wary of them.