Poems You Should Know: ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling

There must be something about the late-Victorian certitude with which Kipling (1865-1936) expounds on the nature of masculine virtue which continues to resonate with men and women today, because in 1995 ‘If’ was voted Britain’s favourite poem in a BBC poll. There is no room here for weakness or indecision or ‘expressing your feelings’: in a manner as bracing as a good British northerly it’s all duty and valour and a stiff upper lip.

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!

Kipling, in true Victorian style, had a male audience in mind when he wrote this poem, but I’ve never found that an obstacle to finding this poem personally inspiring. What do you think?

Playtime: ‘Waiting for Godot: a tragicomedy in two acts’ by Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot 3My latest area of exploration is the classics of theatre and, as with opera and ballet, I’m using the internet to compensate for the lack of conveniently live performances. My first ‘outing’ is Waiting for Godot, a play by Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), which premiered in 1953.

It’s a play where nothing happens. The two main characters, Vladimir and Estragon, are waiting for Godot. He did not come yesterday. He will not come today. But tomorrow, assuredly, he will come. Except that that’s the way it was yesterday, and the day before that, and, odds are, the way it will be tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after… Continue reading “Playtime: ‘Waiting for Godot: a tragicomedy in two acts’ by Samuel Beckett”

Poems You Should Know: ‘The Waste Land’ by T. S. Eliot

Following my recent post on the history of poetry I’m starting a new series of posts along the same lines as my Paintings You Should Know series – ‘Poems You Should Know’. Much like the painting series I’m not planning on following a particular chronology or providing deep analysis; I’ll simply be sharing significant poems.

So here’s my first offering, ‘The Waste Land’ by T. S. Eliot (1888-1965). It’s a Modernist work full of literary allusions. Continue reading “Poems You Should Know: ‘The Waste Land’ by T. S. Eliot”

Paintings You Should Know: ‘Impression: Sunrise’ by Claude Monet, 1872

10 Monet Impression Sunrise 1872
Monet, ‘Impression: Sunrise’, 1872

Although the term ‘Impressionism’ was already in use to describe a style of painting emerging in France in the latter part of the 1800s it was Monet’s use of the word as an off-the-cuff name for this 1872 work (in French, ‘Impression, soleil levant’) which led to its formal and widespread adoption. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: ‘Impression: Sunrise’ by Claude Monet, 1872”

A Brief History of English Poetry

 

Rupert Brook The Soldier 1915
Rupert Brooke, ‘The Soldier’, 1915

Throughout its history, the glory of the English artistic spirit has always found its clearest expression in words, and while prose writing began to gain ascendency with the evolution of the novel in the 18th century, the roots of poetry extend much further back. Indeed, so far back do they go that the earliest poems are lost in the mists of time. What follows, then, is a very brief summary of some 1,500 years of literary history. Continue reading “A Brief History of English Poetry”

Philosopher Profile: Plato (c.428-348 BCE)

 

Plato
Plato

“So,” the Significant Other asked me recently, “now that you’ve finished reading ‘The Republic’ when are you going to do a blog post on Plato?” It’s a fair question: Plato, along with Aristotle, who studied under him, effectively laid the basis for Western philosophy and was also massively influential in the development of Christian theology.

 

And yet in terms of biography we don’t really know a great deal about him. Even his name is only a nickname, meaning ‘broad’, and possibly referring to the shape of his head. His real name might have been Aristocles, but then again it might not. He was born into an aristocratic Athenian family. His family may have expected Plato to enter into politics himself, but instead he became a student of Socrates. Continue reading “Philosopher Profile: Plato (c.428-348 BCE)”

On My Reading List: February 2017

February has been a quiet month for me, reading-wise. I’m well behind in my annual Bible read, which is a situation I must rectify during this Lenten season. I have, however, completed the four Shakespeare plays I mentioned back in January. Perhaps it’s having slogged through the Canterbury Tales last year, but I’m finding Shakespeare much easier to read these days. Still not easy, mind you, but easier. These are the other things I’ve been reading: Continue reading “On My Reading List: February 2017”

Wine Tasting 101 (Part Five: Accessories)

grape-harvest-by-dora-hitz-c1910
Grape Harvest, by Dora Hitz C1910

Accessories! Whether it’s gadgets or handbags, we can never get enough of them, and the line between ‘need’ and ‘want’ is often blurred. The world of Oenophily is no exception, and a quick wander around the web will expose you to a vast array of things which you simply must have in order to make your wine-drinking life complete.

So, what do you really need? Based on what I have floating around my house, here’s a list of my Top 5 wine accessories. Continue reading “Wine Tasting 101 (Part Five: Accessories)”

Paintings You Should Know: Caravaggio’s ‘The Death of the Virgin’, C.1602-06

2 Caravaggio Death of the Virgin 1604to06
Caravaggio, The Death of the Virgin, 1604-06

The interesting thing about this painting, beyond anything to do with the composition or the skill of the artist, is the fact that it was, and for some arguably still is, controversial to the point of outright offensiveness. Continue reading “Paintings You Should Know: Caravaggio’s ‘The Death of the Virgin’, C.1602-06”