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 of 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!
This is one of my absolute favorite poems. If is idealism to the extreme: it's like an idealist's checklist. "Follow these instructions," it says, "and your life will be right. Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it!" Doesn't that sound great? Everything is yours, if you can just do these things.
But here's the catch: all of these things are Very.Hard.To.Do.
There ain't an easy thing on this list. Which is why it's all just one big If.
When my high school English teacher first introduced my class to this poem, I wasn't really sure that I had 'gotten' it: it seemed to me that every single poem we'd learned in that class had a hidden meaning, and that my initial interpretation was entirely wrong (See: The road not taken). So I waited for the analysis of the poem that would tear apart my naive & illusioned response. But none came. It seeemd this poem was a poem that was exactly what it first seemed: a guide to living a grown-up & thoroughly good life.
10 years later, I'm still waiting for the chance to say that a lot of those lines apply to me. I can see all my worst weaknesses laid out there in that poem (If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken/Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools; If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you ), and wish that Kipling had given us more of a "how-to" & less of a just a list of requirements. But, there are some lines that I can claim, lines that I feel are my own, deep down, particularly this one: And so hold on when there is nothing in you/Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" Because, sometimes, that's really all there is.