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by Rudyard Kipling
Kipling If (Doubleday 1910).jpg
A Doubleday, Page & Co. edition from 1910
First published inRewards and Fairies
PublisherDoubleday, Page & Company
Publication date1910 (110 years ago) (1910)

"If—" is a poem by English Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936), written circa 1895[1] as a tribute to Leander Starr Jameson. It is a literary example of Victorian-era stoicism.[2] The poem, first published in Rewards and Fairies (1910), ch. 'Brother Square-Toes,' is written in the form of paternal advice to the poet's son, John.[citation needed]


"If—" first appeared in the "Brother Square Toes" chapter of the book Rewards and Fairies, a collection of Kipling's poetry and short-story fiction, published in 1910. In his posthumously published autobiography, Something of Myself (1937), Kipling said that, in writing the poem, he was inspired by the character of Leander Starr Jameson,[3] leader of the failed Jameson Raid against the Transvaal Republic to overthrow the Boer Government of Paul Kruger. The failure of that mercenary coup d'état aggravated the political tensions between Great Britain and the Boers, which led to the Second Boer War (1899–1902).[4][5]


As an evocation of Victorian-era stoicism—the "stiff upper lip" self-discipline, which popular culture rendered into a British national virtue and character trait, "If—" remains a cultural touchstone.[6] The British cultural-artefact status of the poem is evidenced by the parodies of the poem, and by its popularity among Britons.[7][8]

T. S. Eliot included the poem in his 1941 collection A Choice of Kipling's Verse.

In India, a framed copy of the poem was affixed to the wall before the study desk in the cabins of the officer cadets at the National Defence Academy at Pune, and Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala.[9]

In Britain, the third and fourth lines of the second stanza of the poem: "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / and treat those two impostors just the same" are written on the wall of the players' entrance to the Centre Court at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, where the Wimbledon Championships are held.[citation needed] (These same lines appear at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York, where the US Open was played.)[10] The first verse is set, in granite setts, into the pavement of the promenade in Westward Ho! in Devon.[11]

The Indian writer Khushwant Singh considered the poem "the essence of the message of The Gita in English."[12]

Charles McGrath, a former deputy editor of The New Yorker and a former editor of the New York Times Book Review, wrote that when he was in school, "they had to recite Kipling's "If" every day, right after the Pledge of Allegiance: "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!""[13]

In the BBC's 1996 nationwide poll, "If..." was voted the UK's favourite poem, gaining twice as many votes as the runner-up.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "If by Rudyard Kipling : If, poem by Rudyard Kipling : Poems 007". Archived from the original on 10 February 2017. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  2. ^ Osborne, Kristen (28 April 2013). McKeever, Christine (ed.). "Rudyard Kipling: Poems Study Guide: Summary and Analysis of "If—"". GradeSaver. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  3. ^ Kipling, Rudyard. "Something of Myself." Rudyard Kipling: Something of Myself and Other Autobiographical Writings. Ed. Thomas Pinney. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. p. 111. Print.
  4. ^ "The New Britannica Encyclopædia", 15th Edition, volume 6, pp. 489–90.
  5. ^ Halsall, Paul (July 1998). "Rudyard Kipling: If". Internet History Sourcebooks Project. Fordham University. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  6. ^ "Spartans and Stoics – Stiff Upper Lip". ICONS of England. Culture24. Archived from the original on 12 December 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
  7. ^ Jones, Emma (2004). The Literary Companion. Robson. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-86105-798-3.
  8. ^ Robinson, Mike (2002). Literature and Tourism. The Thomson Corporation. p. 61. ISBN 1-84480-074-1.
  9. ^ Mishra, Piyush; (India Interrupted Blog), Anshuman. "If - Rudyard Kipling". mishrapiyush.wordpress.com. Word Press. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  10. ^ Smith, Liz (29 August 1966). "Round One At Forest Hills". Sports Illustrated. 25 (9). Time Inc. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  11. ^ "SureSet: "If" by Rudyard Kipling for Westward Ho! - Pro Landscaper - The industry's number 1 news source". prolandscapermagazine.com.
  12. ^ Khushwant Singh, Review of The Book of Prayer by Renuka Narayanan, 2001
  13. ^ McGrath, Charles (1 July 2019). "Rudyard Kipling in America". The New Yorker. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  14. ^ The Nation's Favourite Poems. BBC. 1996. p. 5.

External links[edit]