The poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling is a bundle of suggestions from father to his son. In the poem, the poet tells his son how to cope with different situations in the life ahead.
The poem is divided into four stanzas having eight lines each. The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABAB. We will discuss each stanza in detail below.
The poet tells his son that he should keep calm and patient when others do fail and put the blames on him. He should trust himself when all others doubt him. However, he should also make a room for their doubts and try understanding what made them doubt him.
In the fifth line, the poet says that one should wait patiently for success and should never be tired by waiting because success comes to those who work hard and remain patient.
Next, the poet tells his son that other people will often tell him lies. However, he should never lie in his life and always remain truthful. Others will hate him. But he should never hate them back and rather spread love.
In the last line, the poet advises him to neither look too good, nor talk too wise because if he acts upon all the advises the poet gave above, he (his son) will look too good and wise among the common people.
The poet says that he should dream big but never make the dreams his master. Similarly, he should think good (about goals, future, etc ) but never make thoughts his aim because in order to succeed in life one has to work hard.
Mere dreaming and thinking will never lead one to the path of success. Hence one should dream of goals and think of a better future and at the same time should work hard to achieve them.
In the 3rd line, the poet says that one should meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two impostors just the same. Note that the first letters “triumph and disaster” have been capitalized.
These are the two extremes of life. The poet calls them impostors i.e. fake. They either make one extremely happy or miserable. However, they are not long-lasting and hence one should not take them seriously.
In the fifth line, the poet says that one should only speak the truth and should also have the courage to face it when it is misused by others to mislead others.
He should also have the courage to see the things build by him in broken conditions and try rebuilding them with worn-out tools i.e. with what energy or skills you have.
The poet says that one should make one heap of all the achievements one has made and then take big risks. In other words, one should never be afraid of doing things that can either make one successful or ruin everything (pitch-and-toss).
If one fails after taking big risks, he should start again from the beginning without thinking or saying anything about the loss to others. One should try again and again until one succeeds.
In the fifth line, the poet says that one should use his heart and nerve and sinew i.e. courage when one becomes tired or fails. When nothing is left in life, one should have strong will power which may encourage one to “Hold on!”
The poet says that while among the common people one must keep his virtues (and never behave like them) while among the kings (i.e. big personalities) one should never have pride and ego. In other words, the poet is saying that when one is poor, he should keep his virtues and when he becomes rich, he should never ego.
Next, the poet says that neither foes (enemies) nor loving friends can hurt one because of what principles and ideals one hold. One should never give up them.
People will often remain dependent on him but he should never allow them to remain completely dependent on him. The poet may also be saying that one should never give other too much importance or else he will get emotionally attached to them which will hurt him in the future.
In the next line, the poet talks about the importance of time. According to him, time is precious and will never come back. Hence one should start utilizing each and every second of life.
In the final two lines, the poet tells his son if he (his son) acts upon all the advice he gave above, he will be able to achieve whatever he likes and he will be a Man i.e. a true human.