"If" By: Rudyard Kipling

Poem Explication By:Ayomide Odeboh

Literal

The literal meaning the speaker wants to convey in this poem the qualities that one should have to just be a decent person. As if a father is giving advice to a son.


  • The first stanza mentions that if when those around you are loosing their wits but you still have to contradicting the idea of righteousness vs. self righteousness. The author encourages the boy soon to become a man, try to keep a clear head and do not become bitter when people speak against you. You also need to have patience in your daily life. He also encourages him to be honest and avoid dealing in emotions that work against you. Do not try to look or act better than other people.
  • The second stanza talks about how he was the master of his own fate. If he can have control over his actions and make the best of the situations that await him in life.There are always going to be two sides: triumph and victory: winning and loosing. This being said you have to gracefully accept your failure as you would your victory. Life is not a place where there are definites. Sometimes when you try your hardest and still fail you have to begin again and try no matter what.
  • The third stanza states that in some point in life you must take chances. If you fail do not dwell on it and start again. And when you get older and your body is seasoned and frail, never give up the will to go on.
  • The fourth stanza brings out that you should never regard anyone too much or too little, everyone should be treated equally, with the respect that is owed to them. Never forget who you are. The author also brings out not to let others deter you, do not let things of the world overcome you. It also mentions not to waste time and to make the most of the time that you have. If you are able to do all these things than you will truly be a man.

Structure

The lines of this poem come in a standard ab, ab poem rhyme. The poet probably chose this form of poetry to further deepen the meaning of the message. Rhyming the words draws the attention of the reader and it connects it in the reader's mind. The poem is consistent with an over all type of advisory or counselor type of attitude. The poem goes on in one continued sentence. There are semi colons after each stanza and comma within the sentences. I feel the author did this in his poem to almost express his idea as a speech, seemingly making it like it was of the utmost of importance. Rudyard Kipling, probably chose the title 'If', because, it lets the reader know that if you can apply these qualities than this will lead you to manhood, people have to be able to make the right decisions on their own and choose their path to maturity. Each situation is conditional. The poem goes on to get more powerful as you reach the end.

"If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch"

"If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you"

Language

The words in this poem are pretty simple. The mood associated with the words the speaker uses is fatherly, he is uses powerful words that is meant to make the reader think about the decisions he makes as he transitions to a man. The speaker is referring to a boy in this poem. During the time when the poem was written there were not a lot of female influences. Therefore, making males more the center of importance, usually in the literary sense. The author uses of metaphors further prove to examine the extent in which he believes that a person should behave. For example, "Twisted by knaves (metaphor for people of low character) to make a trap for fools". It also uses personification in this poem to further deepen the depth of someone's character. These types of language help to further the imagery of the poem by painting a picture of the type of things one must go through and the way one should overcome them, in this way it intensifies the poem.