Rudyard Kipling's (1865-1936) inspirational poem 'If' first appeared
in his collection 'Rewards and Fairies' in 1909. The poem 'If' is
inspirational, motivational, and a set of rules for 'grown-up' living.
Kipling's 'If' contains mottos and maxims for life, and the poem is also a
blueprint for personal integrity, behaviour and self-development. 'If' is
perhaps even more relevant today than when Kipling wrote it, as an ethos and a
personal philosophy. Lines from Kipling's 'If' appear over the player's
entrance to Wimbledon's Centre Court - a poignant reflection of the poem's
timeless and inspiring quality.
The beauty and elegance of 'If' contrasts starkly with Rudyard
Kipling's largely tragic and unhappy life. He was starved of love and attention
and sent away by his parents; beaten and abused by his foster mother; and a
failure at a public school which sought to develop qualities that were
completely alien to Kipling. In later life the deaths of two of his children
also affected Kipling deeply.
Rudyard Kipling achieved fame quickly, based initially on his first
stories and poems written in India (he returned there after College), and his
great popularity with the British public continued despite subsequent critical
reaction to some of his more conservative work, and critical opinion in later
years that his poetry was superficial and lacking in depth of meaning.
Significantly, Kipling turned down many honours offered to him
including a knighthood, Poet Laureate and the Order of Merit, but in 1907 he
accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature. Kipling's wide popular appeal survives
through other works, notably The Jungle Book (1894) the novel, Kim (1901), and
Just So Stories (1902).