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Summary of If by Rudyard Kipling
“If” is a poem written by Rudyard Kipling, a British author and poet who was born in India in 1865. The poem was first published in 1910 and has since become one of Kipling’s most well-known works. It has been widely quoted and interpreted, and its themes of resilience and determination have made it a popular choice for graduations and other special occasions.
The poem begins with the line “If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,” which sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The speaker is offering advice to the reader on how to be successful in life, and the first line suggests that one of the key qualities that is necessary is the ability to remain calm and focused even when others are panicking or trying to blame their problems on you.
The poem goes on to present a series of “ifs” that describe different challenges or circumstances that the reader may encounter in life. For example, the speaker says “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you / But make allowance for their doubting too” and “If you can wait and not be tired by waiting / Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies.” Each of these “ifs” presents a different challenge or obstacle that the reader may face, and the speaker is offering guidance on how to navigate them successfully.
One of the key themes of the poem is the idea of self-control and self-discipline. The speaker advises the reader to “never deal in lies,” “never trust unproven men,” and “never bear more than one kind of trouble.” These lines suggest that the key to success is to stay true to oneself and to avoid getting caught up in the negative emotions or actions of others.
Another important theme of the poem is resilience. The speaker advises the reader to “ride out the storm” and to “never succumb to force” in order to overcome adversity. This message is echoed in the lines “If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew / To serve your turn long after they are gone” and “If you can fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.” These lines suggest that even when one feels like they have reached their limits, it is possible to find the inner strength to keep going and to persevere.
The poem concludes with a series of lines that summarize the advice offered in the earlier stanzas. The speaker says “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue / Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch,” and “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!” These lines suggest that if the reader is able to follow the advice presented in the earlier stanzas, they will be able to achieve success and respect in their endeavors.
Overall, “If” is a poem that offers guidance and encouragement to the reader as they navigate the challenges of life. Its themes of self-control, resilience, and determination are timeless and universal, and its message continues to inspire and motivate readers to this day.
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