Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 168
Context: "If" ranks with Longfellow's "Psalm of Life" in being quotable; almost every line has become a familiar phrase. For many years graduating classes in America voted it their favorite poem. Developed through a long series of conditional clauses, the poem establishes the qualities that Kipling and his contemporaries considered essential for the type of man they admired: a man imperturbable, self-contained, and self-reliant, calm in both triumph and disaster; and, above all, capable of getting his job done. Such were the men who built the British Empire, and this was the sort of poem admired when poetry was unashamedly didactic.
If you can dream–and not make dreams your master;
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
. . .
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!