What does poem "If—" warn against?
Rudyard Kipling’s “If—“ warns in general terms against extremes and against emulating the lower standards of others. The first stanza, for instance, warns against lying and hating, even when others hate you or lie about you. It then counsels moderation even in virtues, which may become sanctimonious if indulged in to excess:
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.
The second stanza continues the theme of moderation. Dreaming and thinking are good things, but not when carried to excess and imbalance. Stanza 3, however, says that there is nothing wrong with recklessness. To risk everything you have is admirable; it is complaining when you lose that is contemptible.
The fourth stanza emphasizes moderation again. Crowds must not threaten your virtue nor kings your sense of common humanity. No one (and nothing) ought to matter too much to you.
All these specific warnings are either exhortations not to be excessive or extreme, or adjurations to set high standards of speech and conduct for oneself and not to fall below them, whatever others might do. These warnings are obviously part of the poem’s wider recommendation of stoicism and self-possession in every situation: its advice to make a determined attempt never to be swept up in the tide of events but to hold fast to one’s own course.
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