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Saturday, 13 November 2010


It’s that time of year again....poppies, recollections and reviews of the horror of war and, in the mists and dank nights of November, vague recollections from childhood of elderly relatives speaking of the wars with a melancholic look in their eyes as they remembered lost brothers and friends.

The terribly tragic story (made into a wonderful film) of Rudyard Kipling’s eagerness to enable his son to enlist, followed by the death of his son, did much to tarnish the reputation of that great writer. Interesting that he was one of the ‘names’ to believe in the Cottingley Fairies – perhaps the loss of innocence that came with the First World War and the agony of feeling in some way responsible for his son’s death, led him to seek a return to a more mystical age.

Regardless of what happened with ‘My Son, Jack” – and Kipling was no different from any other father of that age – this poem, which was once voted the favourite English poem of all time, remains a tribute to his brilliance.

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 impostors 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:

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 breathe 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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