A Tale of Two “Ifs”

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Rudyard Kipling’s If has been one of those poems (a deepening ground) I regularly return to, especially in difficult times. As a father of six, I would hope my children could aspire to the quality of life that Kipling captures in this 32-line poem of conditional statements. This is anaphora at its best! It’s a litmus test, for me, revealing the reality of how I’m living at any given time. And there’s no time like the present.

I’d thrown around a few different ideas for this post. I wanted something in the line of Hopkins’ celebration of the beauty of the earth (which I posted on Father’s Day) or Vaughan Williams’ ethereal The Lark Ascending. Great joy and hope abound in such things, or in simply being awed by the toad we rescued from being trampled on the local disc golf course. (I carried him to safety on my putter, for those who care). There’s such life in watching my youngest sons at the pool or sliding down the carpeted stairs on a sleeping bag. So why this?

I was going to post a 2015 poem I wrote titled Battling Gorgons, but that will have to wait for another day. My If offering is the antithesis of Kipling’s If. It addresses those who deepen in death and destruction, fear and hatred, and censorship and deception. They propose a world of safety over living, a world of artificiality rather than what is natural, a world of control and servitude rather than common sense and freedom. And so we have a tale of two “ifs,” which, of course, is an intended allusion to Dickens’s classic novel about the French Revolution that opens with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Deepening soil indeed. May I suggest you aspire to Kipling’s end…

If– 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 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!

Source: A Choice of Kipling’s Verse (1943)

If- by Vincent H. Anastasi

If you can keep your peace when all about you
Are losing theirs by stopping up their ears,
If you can trust the narrative they tout, too,
When they become the richer from your fears;
If you can kneel to those who demand kneeling,
Or bow your knee to anyone but God,
Or believe hatred will give way to healing,
When cities burn and riots spread the fraud:

If you can’t dream – except to speak disaster:
If you can’t think, rejecting thinkers’ claims;
If you can’t meet to sing with joy and laughter
And treat your unmasked neighbor with disdain;
If you can bear to let the truth that’s spoken
Be censored by the knaves who wish us fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
While politicians use you as their tools:

If you can make one heap of all your freedoms
And risk it all for anarchist chaos,
And lose the rights you draw your very hope from
And never stop to total up the cost;
If you can force your heart to remain stolid
To feed the curse for taking unborn lives,
And so support a system that is squalid:
A fen of occultists and pedophiles:

If you will walk with crowds who despise virtue,
Or side with those who’ve lost the common touch,
If Orwell’s prophecies do not disturb you,
If being bought has trapped you in their clutch:
If you can’t fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of common sense,
You’ve chosen Death and everything that’s with it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a slave, my friend!

(2020)

Published by thedeepened

I am a lover of words - the way they sing together in neat or sprawling lines upon the page, conducted by the great wordsmiths of all time. The way a sudden turn of phrase or surprising combination of sounds resonates with the deep within me, causing pause: moments of reflection and appreciation that transcend the superficial babblings and paltry visions of the infantile. Here at the deepening ground, it is my intent to make time and space for the reflection, appreciation, and creative imaginings that sustain the human soul.

One thought on “A Tale of Two “Ifs”

  1. Wake up O sleepers!!! These clarion calls are wells of truth that will be lost on the masses, but which will be recorded for posterity. My prayer is that posterity will look upon these and see with grateful hearts what God has wrought out of the fire 🔥!

    Liked by 1 person

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