Rudyard Kipling poem is a timeless treasure

We’ve just spent the past few days cleaning a portion of our house that has accumulated stuff for the past 19 years. Among old clothes and our kids' elementary school papers, I found a long-forgotten, weathered copy of a poem someone exposed me to when I was a 7th grader.

We’ve just spent the past few days cleaning a portion of our house that has accumulated stuff for the past 19 years.

To be honest, most of the “stuff” was standard garage-sale fare — clothes that no longer fit, and toys that no longer work. Why we were still keeping them is a tribute to laziness, I suppose.

But there were a few gems amidst all of the material stuff we probably didn’t need in the first place.

We found a tiny Minnesota Twins shirt I wore when I was about a year old; my mom saved it, and our now-teenage sons dutifully took their turns with it. Perhaps someday, their kids will do the same.

There were worksheets and papers from our kids’ elementary school years, days not exactly forgotten but far from fresh in our memories. The filing system was unorthodox (a dusty pile beneath a bed), but it worked, and now we’ll have something to look at and become teary-eyed about again someday.

And there was even something from 1895; not the original, but a long-forgotten, weathered copy of a poem someone exposed me to when I was a 7th grader.

Some of the language isn’t politically correct by today’s standards, so you’ll have to substitute the word “woman” for “man” if you’re so inclined. I know poetry is kind of “out” in this electronic age, but I think this poem — “If” by Rudyard Kipling, best known as the author of the “Jungle Book” — still has something to say today, even if it is a little dusty.

If

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 impoters 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 that 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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