With the Rugby World Cup nearly upon us, and the final stages of the qualifiers for Euro 2016 (football) also approaching, I thought I would post this famous poem by Rudyard Kipling – If. It is often quoted relating to sport, and I think I am right in saying that the words “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / And treat those two imposters just the same” are inscribed above the doors that lead out onto Centre Court at Wimbledon.
Joseph Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was an English short-story writer, poet and novelist. He won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907. He grew up in Bombay (now Mumbai) in colonial India, his father was a professor at a newly founded school of art in the city. Because of his upbringing in a “colony”, but as one of the colonial masters, Kipling developed the typical view of Indians that most Europeans sadly held at the time, that they were inferior to white people.
In 1894 he wrote the book on which one of my favourite films is based “The Jungle Book”. I have only ever seen the Disney version of this film, but I absolutely love it and when I had children it was one of the first films I bought to show them! How close the film is to the book I have no idea, as I have never read the book – it is on my ‘to-do’ list though.
Here is If, which Kipling wrote in 1895, and it was first published in Rewards and Fairies in 1910.
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!