If

Last post I shared one of my favorite poems, Who am I? by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A few of my readers were kind enough to supplement the offering with one or two of their own, which you can read in the comments section of that post. 

Another poem I have enjoyed very much over the years is Rudyard Kipling’s If, which was first introduced to me by an old friend from Bible college days. When I read the lines I was immediately struck by the wisdom of Kipling’s words. In particular the verse “if all men count with you, but none too much” has come back to haunt me time and again throughout my own brief sojourn through this life. 

Kipling was an English poet who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1907. Here’s his poem, I hope you enjoy it.

 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! 

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About Joshua

Writer, husband, father, friend. View all posts by Joshua

3 responses to “If

  • sybiljean

    revisiting Rilke’s swan
    by Nariman Youssef
    Der Schwan

    This effort to move,
    heavy and shackled,
    through so much still undone,
    is like the awkward walk of the swan.

    And the dying, this letting go
    of the ground on which we normally stand,
    is like the swan anxiously lowering himself

    Into softly receiving waters,
    which flow, joyful and ephemeral,
    beneath him, wave after wave,
    while he, infinitely still and secure,
    becoming wiser, ever more majestic,
    ever more serene,
    with growing equanimity,
    settles into gliding.

  • sybiljean

    WHEN I FINALLY DRAGGED MYSELF OUT OF BED THIS MORN. THE LORD GOD SAID TO ME, “REMEMBER THE ‘WILDERNESS SPIES'”. I PRAYED INSTANTLY, “JESUS, HELP US TO REMAIN TRUE LIKE CALEB AND JOSHUA.”
    I JUST REREAD KIPLINGS’ AND RILKE’S POEMS AND THOUGHT, “HOW FITTING”.
    THANKS JOSHUA – I MEAN JOSH. ; )

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