If Rudyard Kipling Analysis | Stanzas, Themes and Literary Devices

If Rudyard Kipling Analysis: ‘If’ is a poem by Rudyard Kipling that is considered by many to be one of the most inspirational poems written. It was first published in 1910 and is one that has held the attention of people to date. In fact, it is interesting to know that a line from the very poem hangs at the Centre Court Wimbledon in England. It is placed in the player’s entrance and has left its mark on many since it was written.

This poem is beautifully structured and leaves the answers to all his ‘ifs’ until the last two lines, which are powerful indeed. Multiple scenarios and hard truths of life are presented to the reader, and the reader is encouraged to do what is right and persevere, no matter how difficult it may be.

Students can also check the English Summary to revise with them during exam preparation.

However, it is interesting to note the irony of the poem and the poet. He wrote about what one must do to be a ‘Man’ of valour, courage, virtue and strength. Yet, he himself was an imperialist who supported the colonisation of the British Empire that he was a part of. He spent a lot of time in British India as he was born there after all. This poem was written after he himself took inspiration from Leander Starr Jameson and his actions.

If Rudyard Kipling Analysis Stanzas

First Stanza

The poem opens with the scenario of the ‘if’ the poem is all about. The reader is told that it is essential to keep a level head and not blame people or situations. It seems as if the poem is a long sentence that ends on a high note. The poem encourages the reader to have self-trust and an ability to press on even in the face of lies and doubts. The reader is encouraged to have a balance of humility, along with having wisdom and understanding. To trudge on with what is right no matter what one has to face from the people around – even if everyone doubts or lies to the reader. In the last lines, the reader is also told to have patience and to not stoop to the level of those who lie or hate. To even be quiet about who one truly is and not put it on display with arrogance.

Second Stanza

This stanza is structured in a manner that is different from the first. The first had lines that grouped two lines together except the last four lines. But in this stanza, the first two lines are structured in a way that is similar to the second part of the previous stanza. The lines are continued and built upon the last.

Here, the reader is told to dream and think but to not get carried away with either and let them take over. A solid grasp on reality must never be lost. Kipling calls both Triumph and Disasater imposters, while he personifies them. He perhaps calls them so to showcase their temporary nature that one can always move on from.  He says that the reader should not be too caught up with either of those.

Kipling, in the last few lines, brings a harsh truth and reality to the reader. Often, people’s honest words can be twisted and perverted for the gain of those who desire harm. The reader must be ready to face such things. Another truth that he brings forth is that life can be full of times when one fails. But it is essential not to be stuck there and move on, no matter how low the failure brings the reader. One must always be ready to begin again.

Third Stanza

Kipling seems to be continuing from the second half of the previous stanza with a theme that speaks of the same – the reader must begin again if all is lost. One can win the world and lose it all in an instant, but should always move ahead regardless of the loss. The next few lines are said to be very powerful in what they entreat the reader to do. The reader is entreated to endure and persevere even if it feels as if it is impossible – both emotionally (heart and nerve) and physically (sinew). Kipling capitalises the word ‘Will’ here talking about how powerful it is. He talks about the resilience humans have and how far they can go just on will-power.

Fourth Stanza

In this stanza, Kipling finally chooses to talk about what happens with all the ‘ifs’ that he has mentioned so far. But that is only after we are presented with more scenarios and lessons that are essential. In simple words, Kipling talks about humility. Even if one is to walk among kings, their treatment of all humanity should never differ. There should be no space for discrimination but only kindness and respect for all people. Kipling then talks about how one must not be swayed by people around – be int friend or foe. The reader is told not to dwell on the disappointment, pain, or hurt that can be caused by enemies or loved ones alike. As mentioned even in the previous stanzas, the reader is encouraged to move on.

He then encourages the reader to make full use of all the time one has on the earth – even if it is as less as just a minute. Those sixty-seconds too must be worth something and not be wasted.

Then, to bring this marvellous and inspiring poem to a close, Kipling comes to the last two lines. Saying that if the reader does all that was entreated, he would be a man with the entire world at his fingertips.

If by Rudyard Kipling Analysis

If Rudyard Kipling Analysis Themes and Literary Devices

  • Kipling has portrayed themes of success and defeat along with a strong theme of masculinity that is very clear from the last two lines talking about a ‘Man.’ The poem speaks of various things that the reader must do and become in order to be a Man. The attributes given are masculine in a very traditional sense, but it raises a question in regards to women in the contemporary context. If looked at generally, the poem could speak about both genders, as it should. But it is supposed that wasn’t the intention.

The poem is also powerful in its inspiring theme, and it motivates the reader with suitable life lessons. Kiping speaks of the harsh realities of life and what must be done in order to get through and be successful while also talking about how to deal with the negatives like defeat and disaster.

  • Kipling also uses various literary devices in this poem. The ones we will look at are repetition, enjambment and caesura, though there are more than he uses in this poem. Caesura is basically when a poet puts a pause in the middle of a line. This is seen very clearly in stanza two, and it makes its mark. This can be done with either the meter or even punctuation.

Repetition, the device first mentioned, is the one the reader can notice and pick up on immediately. After all, it is the title of the poem, and the word ‘if’ is in almost every single line. This firstly makes the reader ask, ‘if this, then what?’ There is an expectation of the ‘then’ that is produced through the poem as the reader moves forward. It is understood that ‘if’ the reader does all that is mentioned, the ‘then’ will appear, and it does in the last two lines. The leading from the expectation to the solution is done brilliantly.

The last device that we will look at is an interesting one – enjambment. This is seen in the little transition that happens between the second and the third lines of the second stanza as well as of the first and second lines of the third stanza. Kipling cuts off his lines before he can come to a stopping point of his phrase or sentence that is natural.

About Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling was born in December of 1865 in Bombay, India. He was a boy of eleven when he first began writing and was greatly inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Wilkie Collins’s works. He wrote many poems, novels, and articles in his lifetime. But his most famous work was published in 1894 – the Jungle Book. This book even became animated and then made into a live-action movie in the last decade – an honor that was posthumous. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1907.

His life, however, sadly took a tragic turn when his second child died in the 1930s. He developed an ulcer, and when he underwent surgery, he died not a week after. It was elected that his ashes be interred in the Poet’s Corner at Westminister Abbey. As much as his works are appreciated, it is also important to note that today, under critical and scrutinous gazes, his works were seen to be colonial in a sense, causing them to seem much less tasteful.

What is the analysis of If by Rudyard Kipling?

Analysis of Kipling’s “If”

The poem “If” is a paean to British masculine rectitude and stoicism. The poem is structured in such a way that almost every line of every stanza of the poem starts with the word ‘If’. The poet is addressing his son in the poem, shedding light on his beliefs and conveying those to his son.

What is the moral lesson of the poem If by Rudyard Kipling?

The poem is about moral lessons and conduct. It contains advice from a father to a son on how to grow up to be a better person and a true man. He reminds his son that he will be a Man if he can hold on to his values and not be swayed by others. If he follows his advice, he will have a rewarding and enriching life.

What is the main theme of the poem If?

Truly, the poem “If” is a lesson about what is important in life. … Having all of the qualities and characteristics mentioned in the poem will make a man out the son and he shall inherit the earth. Truly, the overall theme is one of manhood and leadership. The speaker is teaching his son what it takes to become a man.

What does the poem If teaches us?

The theme of the poem is about the challenges and conditions that we have to face and overcome so as to succeed in life and leave a mark.