Who is the poet speaking to in the poem "If"?    

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Rudyard Kipling’s piece of didactic poetry “If,” he is speaking to his only son, John. In the poem, he addresses his son as “you,” while he provides instruction on becoming a man of virtue. He teaches his son how to act in a variety of situations, and how to treat people from all walks of life. In addition, he provides his son with guidance on being comfortable with one’s self in spite of the misgivings of others. He cautions his son not to revert to the misguided actions of others, but to be true to his beliefs and attributes.

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:

Although the poem is addressed to his son, John, who died in World War I, Kipling’s poem is looked upon as providing a universal message on how to be a virtuous, mature human being.

 If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,  

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

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!