Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Kipling Poem for Memorial Day

Kipling's poem IF, this Memorial Day, seems so appropriate.

I love its words about resilience,
hold on when there is nothing in you except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!

and virtue amid loss, doubt, exhaustion, hatred.

Yes, it's romantic, and it's that romance that drove his son Jack to enlist to fight in World War I. PBS Masterpiece series just broadcast My Boy Jack, a dramatization of this sad personal story in Kipling's life. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City) star.

The death of Kipling's son inspired this poem (and comforts Bill Cosby after the killing of his son, Ennis; Cosby cited the first stanza, If was very calming, very calming. Because there were times when you wanted to yell out and just be a nasty person. Reading that paragraph over and over, I was able to suppress it.)

As we look forward and count down to noon January 20th 2009 (which I have been doing for years - see counter in my blog border to the right), well, if you can wait and not be tired by waiting...well, be comforted and calmed as you remember the war dead - change is 240 days and 12 hours away from now.

Here is the full text:

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 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!

1 comment:

Living the Light said...

Thanks so much. This is a rich and beautiful poem.