If - Rudyard Kipling
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was a mid-nineteenth to early twentieth century English poet and novelist. He is well known for his fiction such as the famous 'Jungle Book'. In a particular work of fiction, called ‘Rewards and Fairies’ there is a collection of short stories and poetry. Possibly Kiplings’s most famous piece of work, ‘If’, escaped the confinement of the book and settled itself in the hearts and minds of many even to the point of being called England’s favourite poem in 1995 and 2009. It was written with a certain man in mind that Kipling, in an autobiography, named as Doctor Leander Starr Jameson (famous for the Jameson Raid, 1985).
This particular piece of poetry was addressed to his son, John Kipling, in very much the same way a father would lecture his child. It is a piece of life advice that many people can relate to. It was written in four stanzas, each being an octet long. The first four lines are rhymed together. The first three lines end in ‘you’ which suggests that the poem is addressed to someone (his son). The rest of the poem follows alternating rhyme. The poem is posed in a series of contrast which all begin with the words ‘if you can’. The word ‘if’, being very ambiguous in itself, suggests that the poet is telling his son these things are not certain to happen and a great deal of effort will be needed to fulfil the path to becoming a man.
Kipling was a very patriotic individual and he always encouraged his son to join the British army. As such, the entire poem is filled with heroic language, relating war related ideas as truly honourable. The poem is flush with war references such as “If you can wait and not be tired of waiting.” This is a reference to war in which the poet is saying that war is mostly waiting for that decisive battle, especially in that time period.
Kipling was well known for his virtue and tried as much as he could to convey the themes of honour and masculinity in his poems. As such he tries to...