“If” is a didactic poem, a work meant to give instruction. In this case, “If” serves as an instruction in several specific traits of a good leader. Kipling offers this instruction not through listing specific characteristics, but by providing concrete illustrations of the complex actions a man should or should not take which would reflect these characteristics.
The first stanza of “If” illustrates the practice of self-confidence and expresses that, in being confident; the reader must have the courage to face unpopularity and disagreement. This stanza also, however, advises against a self-confidence that does not allow for the consideration of opposing ideas. In exhorting the ...view middle of the document...
“If” is a didactic poem, a work meant to give instruction. “If” gives an instruction in cultivating several specific traits of a good leader. Kipling offers this instruction not through listing specific characteristics, but by providing concrete illustrations of the complex actions a man should or should not take which would reflect these characteristics. The poem is about moral lessons and conduct. It contains advice from a father to a son on how to grow up to be a better person and a true man. He reminds his son that he will be a Man if he can hold on to his values and not be swayed by others. If he follows his advice, he will have a rewarding and enriching life. He will have everything he can wish for.
The power of self-confidence within the first four lines of the poem takes on an air equivalent to that of Socrates it his detachment from criticism:
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,
Here is the real measure of individuality and self-worth the power to reject bitterness in the face of other people's wrath. The overwhelming reference to "you" or "your" which is used seven times within these four lines really has the affect of breaking out of the poem and speaking to the reader directly. There is a Jesus-like forgiveness within the last line of forgiving your foes, it is a higher understanding of how the world works, it grasps at the truth of human nature and makes "allowance" at the folly of others, not for their sake, but for your own.
Patience as a virtue and the correct way to speak and feel is of interest in the next four lines:
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:
Here patience is both taken as patience with others and with the world at large. True understanding is patience, and with dealing with others in the correct manner. The negativity of "hate" and "lying" are rejected absolutely by those who would seek to view the ways of the world from an open philosophic way of thinking. At the close of the poem the narrator warns though against the error of arrogance with such self-confidence and wisdom.
It is hard to ignore the conservative message that is evident within the whole of the next stanza:
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:
Once again the words are noble enough, at the start the narrator praises dreams and longings but warns against becoming blinded...