A didactic poem, Rudyard Kipling's "If" is meant to give instructions on what constitutes a leader and true manhood.
- integrity -"trust yourself when all men doubt you"
- patience- "make allowance for their doubting"
- honesty - "don't deal in lies"
- modesty -"don't look too good, nor talk too wise"
- creativity (with discipline) - "dream..."
- reasonableness - "think, but not make thoughts your aim"
- fortitude - "meet with triumph and disaster...."
- work ethic - "and stoop and build 'em up..."
- unworldliness - "If you can make one heap of all your winnings/And risk it on one turn..."
- courage - "And lose, and start again...."
- integrity - "If you can talk with crowds and keep your virture...."
- humility - "Or walk with kings- nor lose the common touch...."
- love - "If all men count with you"
- virtue/meekness - "Yours is the Earth...."
By the use of paradox, Kipling accomplishes his instruction: attachment with detachment, righteousness without self-righteousness, etc. The lesson is to have balance in one's life. Perhaps, Kipling's experiences in India influenced his writing of this poem as there is the prevalent teaching of Buddism here: the quest for the Middle Way in the quest for spiritual enlightenment.
There are many moral values that Kipling makes reference to in the poem “If”. In the very first stanza of the poem, he states,
“If you can keep your head when all about you /
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,” (lines 1-2)
In these two lines, Kipling is discussing the value of staying calm and relaxed when faced with difficult situations.
Lines 3 and 4 begin a new value which is believing in yourself when others do not, but, at the same time, being aware that others doubt you. In these lines he states,
” If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too” (lines 3-4)
Continuing on in the same stanza, Kipling says,
“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.” (lines 5-8)
Here, he looks at a few different values; line 5 talks about the virtue of patience; line 6 warns the reader not to lie or deal with anyone who does lie. In line 7 Kipling would like his reader to think about the implications of hating or loathing another. The final line of this stanza is quite possibly the most important when dealing with values these days and tells the reader that he/she should not try to show off but be more modest in his/her ways.
“If you can keep your head when all about you,
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you."
Then you probably have no idea about what's really going on.