If is written in iambic pentameter consisting of five feet with with two syllable units. The syllable units consist of the first being unstressed and the second being stressed.
- u / u / u / u / u / u
- If you can keep your head when all about you
The poem is written in 4 stanzas with eight rhyming lines consisting of the rhyme scheme abab cdcd.
If you can make one heap of all your winnings a
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss, b
And lose, and start again at your beginnings a
And never breath a word about your loss; b
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew c
To serve your turn long after they are gone, d
And so hold on when there is nothing in you c
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!" d
This poem is a didactic poem in that it is meant to give instruction or advice, which is to teach a man what the virtues of leadership are. It is a paradox written as a contradiction. For example, the fourth stanza advises the ability to “walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch” and to allow “all men count with you, but none too much.” This is used by Kipling to show the complexity of virtuous behavior.The language in the poem is informal, or colloquial. The open lines "keep your head" is a common figure of speech.