“IF”…A Poem by Rudyard Kipling

The poem “If” is a didactic poem wriiten by Rudyard Kipling. It is a well-known poem. It gives sound advice to young people for a successful life. It is considered as the most beloved poem of Kipling. The poem is addressed to Kipling’s son John. The theme of the poem is manhood and leadership. The word “if” is repeated to describe each action that should or should not be done to achieve manhood in his son’s life. Throughout the poem, Kipling combines contradicting ideas. Kipling advises the younger generation to follow the cardinal virtue of patience, mental equilibrium, courage, devotion and detachment for achieving success and honour in worldly life.

The central idea of the poem “If” is that success comes from self-control and a true sense of the values. In the first stanza, he shows his readers the ideal way to act during times of acute crisis. A man must not lose heart because of doubts or opposition. The poet advises the readers to be strong for taking the responsibility of life bravely. He also advises not to indulge in blame games. A person must have enough confidence to believe in himself and his potentials when everyone else hates him. Thus this poem is about becoming mature and adult. The writer is putting his own experiences into it. This poem compares and contrasts the right and wrong decisions that one person can make in their journey to adulthood.

The second stanza reminds us the correct way to pursue one’s goals in life. He asks his readers to dream because dreams are important. But at the same time, he advises them that their dreams must not lose sight of reality. He also tells not to be changed by victory or failure in life. He advises them that defeat should not affect their life. He also tells to treat every defeat and tragedy as a chance to learn another lesson. In the end of the second stanza, he reminds the readers that the journey towards success is never an easy ride. The poet gives us courage saying that strength lies in getting past the traps. We should not lose heart when we see our words twisted by people. Thus he prepares his readers to have strength, patience and courage in dealing with all these adversities.

In the third stanza, the poet says that risks must be taken in life and hopes must not be lost if things do not work out the desired way. The poet says that a man must be able to risk all his achievements while aiming towards bigger goals. He gives the readers enough courage saying that if you don’t succeed “try again”, without being discouraged.

Towards the last stanza, the poet says to stay true to ourselves and not to forget who we are. He also instructs to make our actions and words meaningful and powerful. Thus the poet wants his readers to become a true man who can fit well with all sections of society. He asks his readers to mingle with the common crowd without losing their individuality. Money often makes people stone-hearted. The poet warns his readers against the evil effects of money.

The concluding lines say that” “if you do not waste time but spend each second fruitfully then the earth is yours”. He also adds that “you will be successful in life”. Time if wasted will never forgive you but if his readers can make the most out of the time no force can stop them from conquering the world.

Thus the poem “If” is really an advice to the younger generation. This poem is written in the tradition of “The Book of Proverbs” in the Holy Bible. All these contain useful principles for a practical and successful life.

The poem employs iambic pentameter. Each line has five feet with one stressed and one unstressed syllable. The tone of the poem is informative and didactic. The mood of the poem is philosophic and reflective.

Prepared by Joy Peter HSST English



5 thoughts on “IF (POEM) – RUDYARD KIPLING

  1. Really helpful….Nowadays and blogs are not giving the correct synopsis of poems. And the above one is the best summary ever. Hats off to Joy Peter Sir who took his time to review this poem.

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