Explain the final stanza in the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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What a wonderful guide for how to handle all of life’s confusing situations!  This is a manual for behavior written in 1896 that still applies to life in 2013. Kipling intended this poem to inspire and motivate his son [although there are differences of opinion as to the person to whom he was writing] to aspire to the high-minded goals he sets in “If” by Rudyard Kipling.

4th stanza

The final verse asserts:

  • that a person should be able to address and converse with  large groups of people and still hold on to his integrity
  • a man should be able to talk with royalty or nobility and keep from growing arrogant or staying true to himself
  • If an individual has done nothing wrong, neither his friends nor his enemies should be able to bother or upset him

Everyone should be treated the same and equal in his eyes—but he should favor no particular type of person, race, or creed

Fill every minute of his life with worthwhile projects and stay the course with them—Never waste life’s valuable time

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

When a person is able to do all of these things, then anything is possible. He will become the master of his fate.

And if he can follow these standards, then he will be acclaimed a man in the truest sense of the word.

1st stanza

Kipling’s common sense approach to life encourages all of the virtues of that man should strive to have in his life:

Self-confidence; patience; honesty—avoid arrogance and sarcasm

2nd stanza

Hope and dream but do not daydream

Ponder and but do not strive to only think about something but put thoughts into action

Winning and losing are both a part of life.  A person must learn to handle both with grace.

When other men twist his words, he should have the fortitude to ignore their efforts to engage him a dispute.

When a man loses whatever he has built or worked on,  he cannot give up he must rebuild what he has lost.

3rd stanza

A person may put everything that he values at risk; however, if he loses everything, he must start again to build his fortune. He should never tell anyone about  it.

When one grows older and his heart, nerves, and strength are of little use, then he must use all of his will-power to go on and say to himself: Do not give up!

This is an poem that sets high standards for the the reader.  It demands that a person be the best that he can be!

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