can anyone tell me what this poem is really about, and why he might have wrote it? thanks !!
I heard a really good radio programme about this not long ago. On the surface, the poem is a set of instructions from a father to his son about how to be a man. If I were writing an essay about the poem, this is the meaning I'd focus on.
On the other hand, the requirements he spells out are so difficult, you could also read the poem as saying "Look, according to the standards of our society, being a real man is impossible!"
Certainly he seems to view manhood as requiring an exceptional degree of emotional repression!
I don't know anything about Kipling's biographical circumstances at the time of writing - whether he had a son, what age, etc - so I can't help with anything there.
A lot of it sounds tongue-in-cheek, but I suspect he was totally serious, and unerringly accurate with his ending,
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.
Of course, in his day, a Woman's lot was much like that of Carroll's Alice - run an equal gallop to at least stay in the same place.
I was always told Kipling wrote it for his son - who was killed in World War One
Found a note on it - If was published in 1910 and based on the qualities of Dr Jameson (later Sir Leander Starr Jameson, a S African statesman prominent in the Boer War) . Some say written for Kipling's only son John, killed at the Battle of Loos (1915). Sadly only one of Kiplings three children survived her parents, and she died childless - Kipling was especially fond of children and when I went to his home - Nymans - now open to the public, there was a lovely big pond where all sorts of Arthur Ransomish fun and games went on with local children, just what you'd expect from the author of The Jungle Book etc. He and James Barrie (who had no children) were great ones for borrowing other people's and having great fun with them.
A man I know had this poem read at his Graduation cereomony. Read the poem and really try to understand it. The point is to be the best you can be and don't let others bring you down. No matter what, have faith in yourself! Maybe he was in a sad part of his life and he wrote for himself, or maybe he wrote it to encourage another friend. If you can try to do your best in this life that God has given us, then you will become a great person.
okay, I am 13 and had to do a Biography on who else? Rudyard Kipling. He was a great writer who wrote this poem for his only son john, the second of his children and while John was in the WWI, he was reported missing. ( he died.) He was only 17.
Q: Do you like Kipling?
A: I don't know, I've never Kippled.
What strikes me about the poem is what Kipling's criteria for being "a do NOT include: physical power, winning, etc. The poem extoles qualities that anyone can try to develop.
Julia33 (hello again!) says that Kipling "seems to view manhood as requiring an exceptional degree of emotional repression." I think you could also understand this as the quality of DETACHMENT, in the Eastern sense. Repression means that the feeling is there but denied, bottled up. Detachment (in the best sense) means recognizing--not denying--and releasing the feeling. Repressed rage prevents you from going forward, starting again, etc., but RELINQUISHED rage enables you to learn and move on.
"Being hated, don't give way to hating"--that's asking for a very Buddhist attitude. It means not letting your self-image reflect what others think of you (which may in any case be a reflection of what they think others see in THEM).
To learn from "triumph and disaster" without letting either one knock you off course... to keep your self-esteem separate from your "winnings"... and above all to really LIVE sixty seconds of each minute: That's NOT the code of the British military. That's more like Lord Krishna's advice in the GITA.
Kipling wasn't military, he was a journalist. He knew squaddies not just officers. Read what he actually says in his stories, not what your preconceptions lead you to believe is there and you may be surprised.
Perhaps we could point them to 'The Comprehension of Private Copper'?
In view of Linda's comment, "If" is a kind of STEALTH poem.
It looks and sounds like a manly man's advice to his manly son. But it's really advising the boy to reject all the macho military values, and society's money-and-fame values, and judge himself based on his ability to have peace of mind regardless of what the fates hand him.