Thursday, November 13, 2008

If you were a boy at the turn of two centuries ago.

If you were a boy 100 years ago, you read Rudyard Kipling. He was the most popular writer in the English-speaking world. "Gunga Din," the movie based on his poem was a huge hit when it came out in 1936. (How could it not be--it starred Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Cary Grant, Victor McGlaughlin and Sam Jaffe.)

Kipling has fallen out of favor over the last 50 years or so. Too much "White Man's Burden," colonialism, and the racism and sexism that then infected the English-speaking world is present in his work.

Nevertheless, a certain turgid profundity is there too.
Last night, given the state of so many things, in my agency and out I read the poem below and sent it to my daughters as well.

If by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
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;

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 imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

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!

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