Today’s Art of Manliness assignment is to memorize this poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling.  It’s an exercise in memorization, an art that is quickly deteriorating in our times.  I find it a bit saddening that our education system ignores memorization as having no importance in our learning.

So about this poem.  I expected it to be some cheesy poem that was going to be difficult and nonsense.  But actually, it is one of the best poems that I have ever encountered in my life.  Rudyard Kipling is a genius and I wish I could write as half as good as he does.

I’m not even going to try to describe my experience with the poem.  Experience it for yourself.

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“If” 

by Rudyard Kipling

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 when lied about, don’t deal in lies
Or when hated, don’t give way to hating
And yet not 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 imposters 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 pick ’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 the 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 all that’s in it
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

***

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Simeon Koh

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