A Shell Ode to Kipling’s “If.”

Recently, whilst on a walk around the beaches in Leamtong Bay in Koh Phi Phi, I came across a variety of gorgeous shells on the light sands. Later on, I went back to the town and found a good pair of scissors and a glue stick. This resulted after a lot of crushing, which was aided by a hefty piece of coral that doubled as a pestle.

The purpose of the piece was simply to memorialize some of the hues and shapes of various shells that I found. Before I knew it, however, I was reminded of Kipling’s famous poem for his son, on the stepping stones necessary to embrace manhood.

I call this piece “He.” Mostly because the face looks to me to have a beard and eyes and even a nose. Many times, when I draw or write in my diary, I don’t do it with any particular pattern in mind. But in my mind, this is the grown up boy in Kipling’s if, although whether he has found his way or not, remains to be seen.

“If” was first published in “Rewards and Faeries” in 1910 by Kipling. The poem reminds me of the importance of working with what you have and to seize the day. I hope you like my personalized actualization of it.

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!



2 thoughts on “A Shell Ode to Kipling’s “If.”

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