"If—" is a poem by English Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936), written circa 1895[1] as a tribute to Leander Starr Jameson. It is a literary example of Victorian-era stoicism.[2] The poem, first published in Rewards and Fairies (1910), ch. 'Brother Square-Toes,' is written in the form of paternal advice to the poet's son, John.[citation needed]

by Rudyard Kipling
Kipling If (Doubleday 1910).jpg
A Doubleday, Page & Co. edition from 1910
First published inRewards and Fairies
PublisherDoubleday, Page & Company
Publication date1910 (110 years ago) (1910)


"If—" first appeared in the "Brother Square Toes" chapter of the book Rewards and Fairies, a collection of Kipling's poetry and short-story fiction, published in 1910. In his posthumously published autobiography, Something of Myself (1937), Kipling said that, in writing the poem, he was inspired by the character of Leander Starr Jameson,[3] leader of the failed Jameson Raid against the Transvaal Republic to overthrow the Boer Government of Paul Kruger. The failure of that mercenary coup d'état aggravated the political tensions between Great Britain and the Boers, which led to the Second Boer War (1899–1902).[4][5]


As an evocation of Victorian-era stoicism—the "stiff upper lip" self-discipline, which popular culture rendered into a British national virtue and character trait, "If—" remains a cultural touchstone.[6] The British cultural-artefact status of the poem is evidenced by the parodies of the poem, and by its popularity among Britons.[7][8]

T. S. Eliot included the poem in his 1941 collection A Choice of Kipling's Verse.

In India, a framed copy of the poem was affixed to the wall before the study desk in the cabins of the officer cadets at the National Defence Academy at Pune, and Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala.[9]

In Britain, the third and fourth lines of the second stanza of the poem: "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / and treat those two impostors just the same" are written on the wall of the players' entrance to the Centre Court at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, where the Wimbledon Championships are held.[citation needed] (These same lines appear at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York, where the US Open was played.)[10] The first verse is set, in granite setts, into the pavement of the promenade in Westward Ho! in Devon.[11]

The Indian writer Khushwant Singh considered the poem "the essence of the message of The Gita in English."[12]

Charles McGrath, a former deputy editor of The New Yorker and a former editor of the New York Times Book Review, wrote that when he was in school, "they had to recite Kipling's "If" every day, right after the Pledge of Allegiance: "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!""[13]

In popular cultureEdit

In 1914 the New Zealand School Journal published the poem without asking permission following the outbreak of World War I. The Education Department wrote to the publishers and offered to pay a "reasonable fee." Kipling, who routinely turned down requests to publish "If—", asked for £50 (the equivalent of £5000 in 2018) to settle the matter. The Solicitor-General said that the Crown was not bound by the New Zealand Copyright Act of 1913, and could reprint the whole of Kipling's works if it chose. Records do not show if the settlement was paid or not.[14]

There is a classical translation in French by André Maurois, who was an interpreter with the British Army during the First World War. It was published in Les silences du colonel Bramble (1921), chap. XIV (Collection Poche, pp. 93s.).[citation needed] In Portuguese, the most widely-circulated translation is by Félix Bermudes.

On 21 September 1938, the Czech journal Přítomnost published the poem in the place of editorial (as a reaction on the situation before the Munich dictate).[15]

The cab driver character Alex (Judd Hirsch) begins the poem and it is finished by the unlikely character Jim (Christopher Lloyd) in season 2 episode 22 of the television show Taxi.

In Apocalypse Now, when the photojournalist played by Dennis Hopper meets Capt Willard, played by Martin Sheen, he spouts a few lines of the first stanza during his drug-fueled, frenzied greeting while trying to relay how much he admires Colonel Kurtz.

In The Simpsons, Grandpa Simpson quotes an abbreviated portion in "Old Money" as justification to betting all the winnings of a recent inheritance at roulette.[16]

Reebok produced a shoe commercial in 1993 featuring Basketball Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Willis Reed, Bill Walton, and John Wooden reciting "If—" to then-NBA rookie Shaquille O'Neal.[17][18]

The book by David Weber, March Upcountry, references this poem.

The fictional character Bridget Jones is powerfully struck by "If—": "Poem is good. Very good, almost like self-help book." [19]

Brand New adapted part of the second stanza of the poem for the lyrics of their 2006 song "Sowing Season."[citation needed]

The poem was adapted and performed as a song by Joni Mitchell on her 2007 album Shine.[20]

The first lines of the poem are used as a password in the 2015 film Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.

In 2016, the Boston Red Sox used the poem in a short video tribute to retiring player David Ortiz, narrated by Kevin Spacey.[21]

Tennis player Serena Williams recited a version of the poem for International Women's Day 2017, substituting 'woman' for 'man.'[22]

In July 2018 students of Manchester University defaced a mural with the poem written on it, and replaced it with Still I Rise by Maya Angelou, saying that Kipling "dehumanised people of colour." [23]

In Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001), the protagonist Mike Bassett (played by Ricky Tomlinson) recited the whole poem in the middle of a pre-match press conference on the eve of the England v Argentina final group stage match at the fictional 2002 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Pressed by a hostile group of reporters who were highly critical of the England football national team's performance in their first two group matches at the World Cup and staring at an early exit from the tournament in the event of an unfavorable result against Argentina, Mike Bassett finds himself voluntarily reciting the poem under the stress, and emphasized at the end of the poem that England will go on to play the match with his favored formation (although much maligned by the press and public) of 4–4–2.[24]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "If by Rudyard Kipling : If, poem by Rudyard Kipling : Poems 007". Archived from the original on 10 February 2017. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  2. ^ Osborne, Kristen (28 April 2013). McKeever, Christine (ed.). "Rudyard Kipling: Poems Study Guide: Summary and Analysis of "If—"". GradeSaver. Retrieved 29 May 2013.
  3. ^ Kipling, Rudyard. "Something of Myself." Rudyard Kipling: Something of Myself and Other Autobiographical Writings. Ed. Thomas Pinney. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991. p. 111. Print.
  4. ^ "The New Britannica Encyclopædia", 15th Edition, volume 6, pp. 489–90.
  5. ^ Halsall, Paul (July 1998). "Rudyard Kipling: If". Internet History Sourcebooks Project. Fordham University. Retrieved 6 November 2011.
  6. ^ "Spartans and Stoics – Stiff Upper Lip". ICONS of England. Culture24. Archived from the original on 12 December 2009. Retrieved 20 February 2011.
  7. ^ Jones, Emma (2004). The Literary Companion. Robson. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-86105-798-3.
  8. ^ Robinson, Mike (2002). Literature and Tourism. The Thomson Corporation. p. 61. ISBN 1-84480-074-1.
  9. ^ Mishra, Piyush; (India Interrupted Blog), Anshuman. "If - Rudyard Kipling". mishrapiyush.wordpress.com. Word Press. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  10. ^ Smith, Liz (29 August 1966). "Round One At Forest Hills". Sports Illustrated. 25 (9). Time Inc. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  11. ^ "SureSet: "If" by Rudyard Kipling for Westward Ho! - Pro Landscaper - The industry's number 1 news source". prolandscapermagazine.com.
  12. ^ Khushwant Singh, Review of The Book of Prayer by Renuka Narayanan, 2001
  13. ^ McGrath, Charles (1 July 2019). "Rudyard Kipling in America". The New Yorker. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  14. ^ "Wronged Kipling seeks £50". Stuff (Fairfax). 13 January 2018.
  15. ^ Peroutka, František (21 September 1938). "Jestliže …" (PDF). Přítomnost. year 15, volume 38: 593.
  16. ^ "The Simpsons s02e17 Episode Script | SS". Springfield! Springfield!. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
  17. ^ "Why Shaq's early marketing was so special". sports.yahoo.com. Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  18. ^ Abdul-Jabbar, Kareem (2017). Coach Wooden and me : our 50-year friendship on and off the court (First trade paperback ed.). New York: Grand Central Publishing. p. 255. ISBN 978-1455542260. OCLC 1003309466.
  19. ^ H. Fielding, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (Picador 2000) p. 308
  20. ^ "Joni Mitchell – If – lyrics". jonimitchell.com. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  21. ^ "Spacey narrates Kipling's 'If' to honor Ortiz".
  22. ^ Maine, D'Arcy (March 9, 2017). Serena Williams recites Rudyard Kipling's poem 'If—' for International Women's Day. ESPN.com
  23. ^ Perraudin, Frances (19 July 2018). Manchester University students paint over Rudyard Kipling mural. The Guardian.
  24. ^ Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001), IMDB

External linksEdit