The poem beautifully describes life’s ups and downs and the importance of knowing how to embrace them both. It celebrates the acceptance and abandonment of what you’d love to have or would hate to lose, and, in either case, having the capacity to move forward – without losing yourself.
It’s about putting yourself out there and playing out the entire story. It may be through a startup, a job, a piece of art or a night out with friends. To follow a dream, or to pursue a want, but not to become bound to any one mantra while doing so.
I’ve always had a soft spot for that type of duality-talk. I too believe life provides a bounty of gifts for those that dance the line.
That’s my take anyway, but the only true way to describe how it makes me feel is to be inside my head when I read it. Thus is the beauty of art and poetry: personal interpretation.
Want to take a crack at expressing your take?
Enjoy the black and white video and reading by Dennis Hopper in the video below created by Nikki Ormerod and Spy Films and let us know your take of this classic piece.
If you can keep your head when all about youAre 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 DisasterAnd treat those two impostors just the same;If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spokenTwisted 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 winningsAnd risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,And lose, and start again at your beginningsAnd never breathe a word about your loss;If you can force your heart and nerve and sinewTo serve your turn long after they are gone,And so hold on when there is nothing in youExcept 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 minuteWith 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!
Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)