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Thursday, April 15, 2010


I've been reading (listening to, really, since it's an audiobook) The Essential Kipling, a collection of some of the shorter works and letters of Rudyard Kipling.  I've loved Kipling since I was young, which is odd, I suppose, since I never read The Jungle Book until I was well into adulthood; but I did like the Just So stories, and many of his stories about those happy scoundrels in India, Private Mulvaney and friends. Mostly I think I was enamored of India and exotic places, and Kipling slaked that thirst for adventure that overtakes me at times.

Rudyard Kipling was a gifted and fascinating man, writing short stories, poems, and novels with equal aplomb.  He was a devoted father and husband, and many of his stories were written for his children.  I'm always surprised to find that a familiar poem is Kipling's (and that I didn't realize it!).  This one is no exception.

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 all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath 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!

–Rudyard Kipling

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