"If" is a poem written in 1895 by
Rudyard Kiplingand first published in the "Brother Square Toes" chapter of "Rewards and Fairies", Kipling's 1910 collection of short stories and poems. Like William Ernest Henley's " Invictus", it is a memorable evocation of Victorian stoicismand the " stiff upper lip" that popular culturehas made into a traditional British virtue. Its status is confirmed both by the number of parodies it has inspired, and by the widespread popularity it still draws amongst Britons (it was voted Britain's favorite poem in a 1995 BBCopinion poll).
According to Kipling in his autobiography "Something of Myself", posthumously published in 1937, the poem was inspired by Dr
Leander Starr Jameson, who in 1895 led a raid by British forces against the Boers in South Africa, subsequently called the Jameson Raid. [ [http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/kipling-if.html Fordham.edu: Modern History Sourcebook] ] This defeat increased the tensions that ultimately led to the Second Boer War. The British press, however, portrayed Jameson as a heroin the middle of the disaster, and the actual defeat as a British victory.
Reaction to the poem
Kipling himself noted in "Something of Myself" that the poem had been "printed as cards to hang up in offices and bedrooms; illuminated text-wise and anthologised to weariness". [ [http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks04/0400691.txt etext of "Something of Myself"] ]
T. S. Eliotin his essays on Kipling's work describes Kipling's verse as "great verse" that sometimes unintentionally changes into poetry. George Orwell—an ambivalent admirer of Kipling's work who hated the poet's politics—compared people who only knew "If—" "and some of his more sententious poems", to Colonel Blimp. [ George Orwell, [http://gaslight.mtroyal.ab.ca/Orwell-B.htm "Review of "A Choice of Kipling's Verse" "] , 1942]
"If—" has been translated into many languages. In 1937 Kipling mentions "seven-and-twenty tongues". One worthy of note is a translation into
Burmese language, the mother tongue of the country where the city of another of Kipling's masterpiece "Mandalay" is located. It was translated by Nobel Peace Prizewinner, Aung San Suu Kyi. Another Nobel laureate to translate "If" was Yugoslavian writer Ivo Andrić.
Some translations are:
*"Në munç",into Albanian by Fan S. Noli
*"A Kae Ywaet", into Burmese by
Aung San Suu Kyi.
Serbian languageby Ivo Andrić.
*"Ha" into Hungarian by Gábor Devecseri . [ [http://www.tau.ac.il/~tsurxx/If.htm Tau.ac.il: Comments on Two Hungarian Translations] ]
*"Ha…" into Hungarian by Kosztolányi Dezső.
*"Hvis", into Norwegian by
*"Indien", into Dutch by J.M. de Vries de Waal. [ [http://4umi.com/kipling/if/nl.htm 4umi.com: "Indien", Kipling translated] ]
*"Als", into Dutch by Karel Jonckheere.
*"Když", into Czech by
*"Keď" into Slovak by
Ľubomír Feldek. [ [http://pravda.newtonit.sk/tisk.asp?cache=569678: "Keď" published in Pravda (line breaks are missing)] ]
*"Se", into Italian by Dario Fonti.
*"Si", into French by
André Mauroisin 1918.
Latinby unknown [ [http://www.franklang.ru/forum/index.php?showtopic=1437 Ôîðóì ìóëüòèÿçûêîâîãî ïðîåêòà Èëüè Ôðàíêà -> Ïåðåâîä "Åñëè" Ð.Êèïëèíãà ] ]
*"Tu seras un homme, mon fils", into French by
Jules Castierin 1949.
*"Заповедь", into Russian by M. Lozinsky. [ [http://www.lib.ru/KIPLING/s_if.txt Lib.ru: Five Russian versions] ]
*"Se", into Portuguese by Guilherme de Almeida. [ [http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/folha/brasil/ult96u92310.shtml Folha Online 5/5/2007] ]
*"Ja", into Latvian by unknown. [ [http://www.e-mistika.lv/?txt=542 E-Mistika ] ]
*"Eğer", into Turkish by
* [http://librivox.org/if-by-rudyard-kipling Free Human-read audio recording] of "If—" at [http://www.librivox.org Librivox]
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