Friday, January 24, 2020

Kipling's Advice Evaluated

I've had little time for lengthy blogposts lately, but a commenter with the pseudonym Sugarloaf has come to my rescue by posting a thoughtful response to my question about Kipling's advice in the poem "If-":
All memorable advice should be pithy. As it gains in succinctness, there will inevitably be losses in subtlety. The balance - maximum sense with maximum memorability - is the criterion. By this criterion, I think “If “ passes the test comfortably. I, too, first came across it around the age that you did. It is likely that Kipling wrote it for his son of about that age too. For someone about to begin his or her teenage years with all its challenges, temptations and excitements, it is imho a valuable aide-memoire on many aspects of daily conduct. It is not a guide as to what to do – parents and schools are replete with exhortations about this, making further elaboration tedious to the young. It is about how to deal with “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” which certainly will come the way of all young people, and for which it is useful to be as prepared as possible. Some of its advice has a slow burn: it was many years before I knew to what “the truth you've spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools” might be referring. But when the moment came, I was able to recognise the thing for what it was, and to act appropriately, I hope. Not Kipling’s fault if I made a mess, of course. The heap of winnings lines worried me too all those years ago. I did not agree with it. Like a lot of things. Nuff said.
Thank you, Sugarloaf, for a thoughtful response to my query. I was interested to see that you apply the poem to both boys and girls. Would Kipling have approved?



At 5:18 PM, Blogger Sugarloaf said...

I’m glad you found my comment interesting.
Re the applicability of the poem to girls as well as boys: Serena Williams, the tennis-player, provides a new final line. Instead of “And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!” she substitutes “What’s more, you will be a woman, sister!”. Thus Ms Williams - famously independent of mind - indicates that she, at any rate, believes the advice to be applicable to both girls and boys, women as well as men.

I wonder if an informal poll of women might reveal whether Ms Williams’s view is more widely shared?

At 10:21 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The number of sisters will have to rise.

Jeffery Hodges

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