Kipling’s Poems “If” and “Recessional”

IF . . .


. 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!


God of our fathers, known of old

Also published  as “Recessional”

Author: Rudyard Kipling

God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The captains and the kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

Far called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law—
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget—lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,
For frantic boast and foolish word—
Thy mercy on Thy people, Lord!


Words: Rud­yard Kip­ling, 1897. The words were orig­in­al­ly writ­ten as the po­em “Re­cess­ion­al,” and pub­lished in the Lon­don Times dur­ing Queen Vic­tor­ia’s Ju­bi­lee cel­e­bra­tion. They were al­so sung at Kip­ling’s fun­er­al.

That poem gave me more trou­ble than an­y­thing I ev­er wrote. I had prom­ised the Times a po­em on the Ju­bi­lee, and when it be­came due I had writ­ten no­thing that sa­tis­fied me. The Times began to want that po­em bad­ly, and sent let­ter af­ter let­ter ask­ing for it. I made more at­tempts, but no fur­ther pro­gress. Final­ly the Times be­gan send­ing tel­e­grams. So I shut my­self in a room with the de­term­in­a­tion to stay there un­til I had writ­ten a Ju­bi­lee poem. Sit­ting down with all my pre­vi­ous at­tempts be­fore me, I searched through the do­zens of sketch­es till at last I found just one line I liked. That was ‘Lest we for­get.’ Round these words ‘The Re­cess­ion­al’ was writ­ten.

Price, p. 34

To better understand the poem, please see the following resource:

(Notes by Mary Hamer)

the poem


“It is extremely unlikely that Kipling subscribed to any form of orthodox religious belief. Yet at the same time he understood and valued the role of sacred stories and writings in organising the inner life of the people among whom they were shared. A majority of Kipling’s English-speaking readers would have been brought up on the Authorised Version of the Bible. As a poet, he drew on its language and on its stories in order to reach a deeper level of response in his readers, one associated with the intensity of early experience. “

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1 Response to Kipling’s Poems “If” and “Recessional”

  1. Pingback: Captains Courageous Assignment Overview and Due Dates | Literature Discovery

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