Tuesday, December 19, 2017

If by Rudyard Kipling

As a little background, "If" was written in 1895 - two years before the birth of the Kipling's son, John, in 1897. It appears not so much to be a code designed for a son as much as a tribute to Leander Starr Jameson - who at least according to Wikipedia had a rigid code of honour and was much loved by his contemporaries. Anyway, if by radical and reformist, people mean Jameson was seriously anti-slavery then I will forgive Rudyard his all to apparent sexism (he is,after all, a product of his time), and also celebrate the good doctor/politician.

If, 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 impostors 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 worn-out 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 breathe 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! 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

If All the World were Paper

If all the world were paper,
And all the sea were inke;
If all the trees were bread and cheese,
How should we do for drinke?

If all the world were sand’o,
Oh then what should we lack’o;
If as they say there were no clay,
How should we take tobacco?

If all our vessels ran’a,
If none but had a crack’a;
If Spanish apes ate all the grapes,
How should we do for sack’a?

If fryers had no bald pates,
Nor nuns had no dark cloysters;
If all the seas were beans and pease,
How should we do for oysters?

If there had been no projects,
Nor none that did great wrongs;
If fidlers shall turne players all,
How should we doe for songs?

If all things were eternall,
And nothing their end bringing;
If this should be then, how should we
Here make an end of singing?


Treasury Islands (a cute site you should definitely check out if yo're faicnated by children's literature) says this piece appeared in John Mennes and James Smiths  Facetiae, published in or after 1658.
It's always interesting to speculate about the inspiration for any work -  and I can't help but wonder if it could have been this piece from the Quran. There are various translations but this is the simplest I've found. "If the seas were ink and trees were pens, the words of Allah would not be exhausted." Such magnificence. Every so often I wish I could read something in it's original language, and that is definitely the case here. 

And all this was because I thought an "If" poem would be a great way to introduce my students to poetry. But I'm so taken with if poetry, next week, don't be surprised if you see another "If" poem. (Not necessarily mine) 

Have a great week