What is the style of the poem "If—" by Rudyard Kipling? Can you explain it with examples attached to it?

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Thelma Romaguera eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling is a lyric poem. Lyric poetry is defined as poetry which emphasizes musical qualities and encompasses a "spontaneous overflow of emotions."

This poem emphasizes musical qualities by its use of rhyme in the format A-B-A-B-C-D-C-D for each eight-line stanza. As well as the line-end rhymes, there is internal assonance and alliteration; for example, the repeated sounds of "nerve" and "serve" in the third stanza in the middle of lines five and six, respectively. Kipling also uses repetition of the words "dream" and "dreams" as well as "think" and "thoughts" in the first two lines of the second stanza. Changing the words from their verb to their plural noun forms creates a repetitive association in the reader's mind.

As for the "overflow of emotions," this poem drives home its emotional message in its final two lines. The language used throughout the poem is has many lines beginning with different "If . . ." sentences but doesn't provide the "then" until the final lines. By showing so many different potential situations, defeats, and triumphs throughout the poem, the speaker creates in the reader a desire to know what will happen if all of these "if" conditions are met.

The release of this tension—which the poet has built up by beginning so many "if" statements—is extremely effective. An example of the oppositional forces which exist within the poem is in the final stanza when the speaker says "If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you." This seems like a very strong situation, so naturally the reader wants to know...

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