Topics for Further Study
Ann Parry writes in The Poetry of Rudyard Kipling that the question of whether Kipling was truly a poet has been “perpetually debated.” She quotes writer T. R. Henn’s answer to this question: “When his technical mastery, variety and craftsmanship have all been recognized, it has to be said that ‘Kipling, nearly, but never wholly achieved greatness . . . the ultimate depth was lacking.’” Look at several of Kipling’s poems of your choosing, and discuss the following in an essay: do you agree that Kipling’s work shows “technical mastery?” Why or why not? Do you agree or disagree with the assessment that Kipling’s work lacks “ultimate depth?” Why or why not? Use examples to support your opinions.
Kipling wrote “If” in 1910. Research other poets who were writing and publishing in England or the United States at the same time as Kipling. Compare and contrast Kipling’s style with the style of another poet of your choosing from the same time period.
“If” was originally published in Kipling’s collection of children’s stories, Rewards and Fairies, as a companion piece to the story “Brother Square-Toes,” which features George Washington as a character. Read “Brother Square Toes.” Write a brief essay showing how “If” serves to complement the short story.
“If” is written in a strict meter. Each stanza consists of eight lines rhyming abab cdcd. The “a” and “c” lines, each with eleven syllables, and the “b” and “d” lines, each with ten syllables, are written in iambic pentameter. Following the structure of “If,” write your own didactic poem on a subject of your choosing.