Kipling’s poem “If” is profound and moving.
I don’t give a fig that spoilsports like George Orwell considered Kipling a jingoistic outrage. I don’t give a whit that he was a child of the British Empire, which, in this revisionist age those of a smaller mind would have us deride.
How easy it is to criticize with the benefit of hindsight.
As ever I take the words at their face value. I do not comb through the life of the man trying to come up with reasons why I should dislike the poem because I have or don’t have political quarrels with its author.
“If” is meet and right. It is full of good things. It inspires the soul. It tells me how I should lead my life and I am grateful for the inspiration, the thought, the teaching. Down with the politically correct who would like to ban Kipling or eviscerate his works as they have done with children’s author Enid Blyton.
To censor or criticize historical works in the light of current thinking is an invidious and dangerous form of censorship. A nonsense. George Orwell and his like were wrong. What mealy mouthed crusader can object to If? Or indeed The Famous Five?
But enough ranting, back to the poem. Is this not a way you would want to lead your life? I know, were I a character of somewhat stronger constitution, that I would lead my life by the words of this wise poem.
I must not “look too good, nor talk too wise”. Guilty as charged I fear. I may talk the talk but at heart, down below, when push comes to shove I am as flawed as my neighbor. Yep, good tip Rudyard, thanks. Must try harder not to be a loud mouthed hypocrite.
Can I “meet with Triumph and Disaster, And treat those two impostors just the same”? Well no I can’t but I know therein lies the secret of happiness. What else is Buddhism all about if not retaining equanimity? What is the Tao te Ching if not going with the flow?
“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch” – how right he is, what sentiments! I’m not sure that I can, though I know I perhaps I ought. I retain, I stubbornly cling to the upper middle class Englishness into which I was born. Westminster and Oxford, a cut glass accent. And I am not ashamed, in reality, so to do. I just wish that others had been born with like privilege and advantage.
And if you can live by Kipling’s wise precepts: “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it”.
Yes Rudyard Kipling, I am with you. You are a man whose sentiment I admire and whose advice I accept.
Your poem is great and wise and good.