What If –

This is a tribute to that olden British writer, Rudyard Kipling. His poem was originally titled ‘If – ‘ and was dedicated to the son of a friend. We studied this in high school and each wrote our own versions for a quiz. I misjudged the consequence of that work. I remember that it was quite well-written, one of my best efforts up until that point. I am tempted to pen a piece in similar manner to Mr Kipling. While cleaving closely to the source material, this is more parody than commentary. 

What if you could remain humble and composed 

When everyone has done otherwise,

What if you are confident when all people have questioned you,

But allow berths for their questions too;

What if you can fly and not be tired of flying,

Or climb peaks and not be discouraged by heights

Or be disliked, don’t give a damn about scorning

And yet don’t seem too swell, nor talk too tall: 

What if you can time-travel – and not make time your master;

What if you can be a cheater – and not make cheating your aim;

What if you can meet with Good and Evil

And regard those pair of strangers with no problemo; 

What if you could hear the beat of the truth

Perverted by rogues to be consumed by halfwits,

Or watch the castles you built, trampled on,

Yet there you re-build, carving with crumbling tools: 

What if you could make one list of all your enemies

And play a game of high stakes,

All the while counting those names as you gamble

And once you lose you do it all over again,

And as you figure like Groundhog Day you disown any connection between loss and foe

And you never tell a soul about their losses;

What if you could listen, and not hear

Speak, and not blab; write, and not scrawl

Dine, and not gobble; drink, and not guzzle

Touch, and not brush; punch, and not type

See, and not glance

What if you could do all of those, while being true, and more?

What if you could force feed yourself

Extract your being from the constraints of monotonous rule? 

What if you could continue fighting,

When all you hear is sound and fury,

When all you could hang onto is that little voice inside, whispering ‘Keep at it!’

What if you could talk with hordes and keep your moral compass,

Or dine with royals and retain the common notch,

What if neither demons nor loving angels could impair you,

What if all humanity could count on you, but none the richer;

If you could cram the cruel minute

Make every second count,

Yours is the galaxy and all within it,

And what can I say? You’ll be a contended man, my pal!

I remember writing my own version of ‘A Visit from Saint Nick’. I had a lot of fun doing so last year. This is admittedly shorter and likewise less comical. I thought about forgetting the structure and following my own format with a lot more creative control. However, order ruled and I (mostly) stuck to Kipling’s style. The funny thing is how a poem first published in 1910 could remain so relevant a century later. For all the young and budding writers out there, we could learn a lot from Rudyard. His work is an embodiment of resilience, enduring despite a fair share of critics in the decades since his passing. Mr Kipling, ‘The quality of your words is something we should all aspire to reach.’ 

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