I discovered this poem while reading an amazing book called “A Man“. a novel written by Oriana Fallaci chronicling her relationship with Alexandros Panagoulis, the attempted assassin of Greek dictator George Papadopoulos.
In the book Oriana asks to Alexandros what means for him being “A Man” (intended not in a gender way but as a metaphor of a real and complete person) and he answers mentioning the poem “If” that Rudyard Kipling wrote in 1895.
One of the things that I love the most about this poem is what comes after the first “If line”. The lines that start with “And” give an extra and deeper “layer” to the meaning of this poem.
If you can make one heap of all your winningsAnd risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,And lose, and start again at your beginningsAnd never breathe a word about your loss;
This poem became one of my best “motivational speech” ever (fun that in the era of motivational speeches my favourite is one older than a 100 years). Every time I read it gives me chills, and very important makes me understand how much I still have to do to become “A Man”.
Hope you enjoy it.
“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!”