Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wisdom Wednesday - Words to Live By

When I was in the seventh grade, my English teacher assigned the following poem to our class to learn and to  recite from memory for a grade. We all moaned and groaned about it at the time, but I, being a budding poet, quickly became excited by the challenge. I did a great job of memorizing and reciting the poem, and received an A+ on the assignment, however, at that young age, the words of this insightful piece of writing were just that to me - words. It wasn't until later in life, as I began to truly develop into the person I am, that the full meaning of this poem was revealed to me. By that time, I'd developed as a Christian woman, and not only that, but my reputation as an honest, forthright, helpful, and kind person was acknowledged by all, even those who didn't particularly consider me their "cup of tea." When I really understood what Rudyard Kipling was getting at, I realized that, even though I didn't "get it" back in seventh grade, I've lived my life according to this mantra, and so I proudly share his words, with one slight revision, in the space below. Decades after being given the assignment, I can still recite this poem by heart, but now, not only do I understand what the words mean; I live them, everyday.

by Rudyard Kipling

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 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 them 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 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, this race of life, you will have WON.

 * The bold-italicized words were revised/added by me in 2006, when I prepared copies of this poem to give out to friends of mine at a private party.  I wanted people of both genders to be able to personally relate to the poem, and not to be thrown off by Mr. Kipling's original ending, which reads, "you'll be a man, my son."

My blog was created as a forum to record my family history and to interact with, and reach out to other researchers.  I will not use it as a platform for anything else. I am the person I've presented myself to be.  Those who know me can and will attest to my character. I have never wished or threatened harm against another human being in my life, and I won't start now.  Whatever you've known of me - whatever our interactions and communication have been to this point - it's been true, honest, and sincere.  Trust your own heart.

Blessings to all,


  1. My sixth grade English teacher, Mrs. Hughes, also made us recite this- how far are you from Holden, Massachusetts? I still can remember bits, but not the whole thing. I used to recite it a lot, and I remember that when I graduated from high school my Mom found a graduation card with these words on it. I was surprised she still remembered! And you do, too!

  2. Renate,
    I am a bit envious. I really liked this post. I would love to be able to recite Kipling's words by heart. Unfortunately, for me it is the ringing tones of "Old Ironsides" that burst forth from my lips on occasion.

    BTW, thanks for the nice words about Greta's Follow Friday feature. I dinna even know about it as I have had my nose to the grindstone -- figuratively speaking.

  3. Renate,

    I love this poem by Kipling as well. Thank you for your comments on my blog post about 9-11 (by way of my comoment on Dorey's FB page). You said, "I am your sister - and hers, too." Thanks, my sister! :-> Your blog is inspiring me to get back into my ancestry work! Will come back to peruse your posts. What a labor of love you have here!


  4. Thanks for your comments, ladies! Heather, I'm quite a ways from Massachusetts. I guess, "If" must have just been the going thing for English teachers back in the day. (I wonder IF it still is?)

    Joan, you've got me on that one. What can I say? LOL.

    Angel, I'm thrilled that you're here! If you're a friend of Dorey's I know you must be "good people"! Stick around, and feel free to comment anytime!


  5. I love this poem, and I read it at a very timely moment this evening. I will be sharing it with my husband who is dealing with end-of-the-year College students. Maybe it will give him the strength to share his love and good energy and keep anger at bay.
    (sorry...but I copied it and put the original ending back for hubby.)