Analysis and Summary of If by Rudyard Kipling

The poem If by Kipling is a celebrated piece of poetry which has a lesson of value for almost every reader. ‘If ‘ is something that can be perceived as a set of virtues laid down by the poet which are conducive for the development of a good human being. In this post we are providing a concise summary of the poem IF. However, if you’re looking for a detailed analysis, kindly follow the links below,

To read more about the author, the poem ‘If‘ and its setting, follow this link

Please Read : A Personal Appeal from the Writer.

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;

This  is a decoded version of what the poet wants to convey through his didactic words. In the first stanza he shows his readers the ideal way to act during times of acute crisis. The poet asks his readers to make themselves strong enough such that they can take responsibility for their actions and choices bravely and not indulge in blame-games. A person should muster enough confidence to believe in himself and his potential when everyone else gives up on him; but at the same time the poet also advises his readers to make enough room in their heads for opposing ideas from others. The poem if teaches a person the importance of waiting and advice him to not let lies and hatred mire his character even if the ones around him seem to be infested with them. Kipling knew that instilling these virtues might make his readers self-righteous so he warns them against the same towards the end of the stanza.

Here is an in-dept and detailed analysis of the first stanza by the same author

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 worn out tools;

When we move to the second stanza,  it engulfs within its scope the correct way to pursue one’s goals in life. Kipling asks his readers to dream and think profusely but also advises them to prevent the same dreams and thoughts from controlling their every waking moment and upon fulfillment on those very dreams he asks his readers to master modesty such that they do not turn into self proclaimed Samaritans. He says to his readers that they must not let defeat affect them and advises them to treat every defeat which they might face as a chance which life them gave them to learn yet another lesson. In the end of the stanza the poet reminds his reader that the journey towards success is never an easy ride as on their way they will meet people who would want to bring them down by using his righteousness against him. Through his words of wisdom he prepares his readers for the times when they might have to surrender everything they have to fate and infuses in them the power of creation to start from scratch again.

Here is an in-dept and detailed analysis of the second stanza by the same author

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”;

Upon venturing into the third stanza, this summary of poem If will shed light upon the poet’s message to his readers that risks must be taken in life and hopes must not be lost if things do not work out the desired way. The poet says that a man must be able to risk all his achievements while aiming towards bigger goals. Shall he lose; he must not cry over spilt milk and start all over again with reinforced heart, nerve and sinew controlled by his determination in such a way that they never leave his side even during the most trying of times.

Here is an in-dept and detailed analysis of thethird stanza by the same author

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!

Upon reaching the fourth stanza this explanation of the poem if shall take a more somber turn as this stanza houses the poet’s final instructions to his readers which are meant to be followed once they have reached that stage of success in their lives which they aimed at. Kipling wants his reader to become a man who can fit well with all sections of the society. His asks his reader to mingle with the common crowd but never lose his individuality. Money often makes a person stone-hearted. The poet warns his readers against this evil effect of money and tells them that they must never let go off their compassion or become too proud upon being accepted by the finer rung of the social ladder as one of them. Kipling wants to carry his readers to such a stage in life where no friends or foes can have the power to hurt him; where he can move with the crowd but stand out because of his virtues. Towards the end of the poem the poet imparts the knowledge that time if wasted will never forgive but if his readers can make the most of whatever time is left with them by paying heed to his advice then no force can stop them from conquering the world and being a man in the real sense of the term.

Here is an in-dept and detailed analysis of the fourth stanza by the same author

Thus we come to the proper understanding of the meaning of the poem If whose central idea revolves in being a just human being after attaining the success and paths of glory (which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!)

For a more detailed reading on the central idea and theme of the poem, follow this link

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  1. This is just amazing. If is indeed an awesome poem and the way here it is elaborated ,its beauty has come to be at its uttermost edge. Lovely!!

  2. I found your summary wonderful, perhaps because it confirms what I’ve always thought. Your summary articlates the principals in a manner much more concise than I could ever manage. Thank you!

  3. This poem is a bit tough to understand.. but this summary helped me a lot.. thanks beamingnotes for this…


  4. If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run – I’ve always looked at line is how one reacts in the moment ( that 60 seconds) some one does or say the unforgiving determines what kind of person you are. eg; did you lose it? or did you stay calm? and deal with it .

  5. Super!this summary will help me a lot to prepare apprehension about the poem

  6. This summary really gave me an indebt meaning of the poem. For years l loved the poem but did not understand it. Thank you Beaming notes.

  7. Having read this I believed it was extremely informative.
    I appreciate you taking the time and energy to
    put this content together. I once again find myself personally spending way
    too much time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

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