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Coles Books News – Edition 40 – 1st October 2022


Those attributes of putting in some effort and taking personal responsibility are qualities often overlooked, but would serve us well.

There was a book published 26 years ago, almost to the day, it was the result of a vote – the vote for the nation’s favourite poems. The eponymously named book, published by the BBC and with a foreword by comedian Griff Rhys Jones, went on to become a bestseller and is still in print today. The 100 poems contained within it are the most perfect anthology and reflection of the poetry of a nation. The winning poem, by a huge margin, was of course ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling. That poem, written in the decade after the death of Queen Victoria, had all the classic Victorian attributes, most notably Stoicism. One hundred years later, again after the death of a long serving monarch, Stoicism may be a virtue which returns to the mainstream. As a philosophy there are certainly elements within it which are somewhat dull and dry – you can’t suck all the joy out of life! – but those attributes of putting in some effort and taking personal responsibility are qualities often overlooked, but would serve us well.

On this day when energy bills go up, who’d have thought a poem, written over one hundred years ago, could be the perfect catalyst for turning the thermostat down a few degrees – or even leaving the heating off completely!

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!

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