Rudyard Kipling’s (1865-1936) inspirational poem ‘If’ first appeared in his collection ‘Rewards and Fairies’ in 1909. The poem ‘If’ is inspirational, motivational, and a set of rules for ‘grown-up’ living. Kipling’s ‘If’ contains mottos and maxims for life, and the poem is also a blueprint for personal integrity, behaviour and self-development. ‘If’ is perhaps even more relevant today than when Kipling wrote it, as an ethos and a personal philosophy. Lines from Kipling’s ‘If’ appear over the player’s entrance to Wimbledon’s Centre Court – a poignant reflection of the poem’s timeless and inspiring quality.
The beauty and elegance of ‘If’ contrasts starkly with Rudyard Kipling’s largely tragic and unhappy life. He was starved of love and attention and sent away by his parents; beaten and abused by his foster mother; and a failure at a public school which sought to develop qualities that were completely alien to Kipling. In later life the deaths of two of his children also affected Kipling deeply.
Rudyard Kipling achieved fame quickly, based initially on his first stories and poems written in India (he returned there after College), and his great popularity with the British public continued despite subsequent critical reaction to some of his more conservative work, and critical opinion in later years that his poetry was superficial and lacking in depth of meaning.
Significantly, Kipling turned down many honours offered to him including a knighthood, Poet Laureate and the Order of Merit, but in 1907 he accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature. Kipling’s wide popular appeal survives through other works, notably The Jungle Book (1894) the novel, Kim (1901), and Just So Stories (1902).
Read on the poem ………..