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“If”: A Poem Worth Learning

by Kelly Crawford

In my estimation, this is one of the most brilliantly written poems of all time.  Every word counts, and it encapsulates, without saying, the essence of a person under the control of the spirit of God (and then some!)  We are memorizing it as a family and I thought you might like to ponder it with your children as well.

(It reads more smoothly if you will pause most at the punctuation, not the end of the lines.)


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 imposters 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 wornout 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 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!

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Brooke October 5, 2009 - 12:02 pm

Fantastic! And perfect for the journey my family is on right now…Thanks for the reminder of the perspective we desperately need to keep in this life. Thank you also for the discipleship video. My husband and I really enjoyed it and it prompted great dialogue. Discipleship is our passion!

Kim M. October 5, 2009 - 12:59 pm

I love that. I remember reading that poem as a child (not word for word, but I remember reading it)…. I am sure your children will too.

HeatherHH October 5, 2009 - 1:58 pm

I love this poem! I didn’t discover it until a year or so ago. I didn’t care for poetry growing up, much of what I read in school was abstract modernistic stuff. And I like sentences in my poetry! This is one of my favorites along with The Road Not Taken.

shanie October 5, 2009 - 2:22 pm

it’s a shame kipling doesn’t get taught more, he’s a fantastic writer. unfortunately some of what he wrote has an undertone of rascism that was prevalent at the time. so schools avoid it altogether. i love this poem

Becky October 5, 2009 - 4:22 pm

“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”;

Great excerpt for a difficult birth!

Word Warrior October 5, 2009 - 5:04 pm

Becky–ooh, hadn’t thought about quoting it during birth 😉 I’m quoting it right now, lying on the couch with mastitis (yuck!) This is the first time I’ve had the strength to even type words. Blog may be quiet for a couple of days.

Margaret October 5, 2009 - 9:46 pm

Love it!

Becky October 6, 2009 - 9:29 am

Oh Kelly I’m so sorry! I can’t even imagine what mastitis must feel like. I’ve heard it’s awful. I’ll keep you in my prayers. (And keep myself in my prayers, too… I’d hate to get mastitis!)

Tricia October 6, 2009 - 3:47 pm

Becky, I’ll tell you what I quoted during a loooong labor: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4:13.) I had never been so thankful for that verse!

brandy October 7, 2009 - 9:21 am

I did have my kids memorize this a few years ago. I love it. We almost named our last baby “Kip.” lol


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