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A Short Analysis of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If—’

A summary of a much-loved poem

Since Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If—’ was first published in Kipling’s volume of short stories and poems, Rewards and Fairies, in 1910, it has become one of Kipling’s best-known poems, and was even voted the UK’s favourite poem of all time in a poll of 1995. Why is ‘If—’ so highly regarded? And what is the curious story behind the poem? Closer analysis of the poem reveals an intriguing back-story and some surprising stylistic effects.

If—

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: Read the rest of this entry

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Seven of the Best Epic Poems by Female Poets

The best epics by women

The IliadThe OdysseyParadise Lost – these are some of the titles that immediately spring to mind when we think of epic poetry. But this ignores the contributions made to epic poetry by women writers over the millennia. Here are seven of the best classic epic poems written by women.

Enheduanna, The Descent of Inanna. This is not just the oldest female epic; it’s the oldest work of poetry written by any named poet, male or female. Enheduanna was a Sumerian high priestess who lived in the 23rd century BC – that’s around 1,500 years before Homer. Enheduanna lived in the city of Ur (in modern-day Iraq), and was a priestess of the Sumerian moon god Nanna. This poem describes the goddess Inanna’s descent into the underworld – Inanna being the daughter of Nanna, and the Sumerian goddess of love, beauty, fertility, and wisdom, among other things. Although it’s a short work (it runs to little over 400 lines), it contains many of the elements we associate with epic poetry, and elements of the story are found in the later myths of the descent of Ishtar and the Greek story of Persephone and Hades. You can read a modern English translation of Enheduanna’s poem here. Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Michael Drayton’s ‘Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part’

A summary of a classic poem

Michael Drayton was a contemporary of William Shakespeare – he was born a year before Shakespeare, in 1563 – and, like the Bard, he was a Warwickshire lad. But although he wrote a great number of poems – including a long verse travelogue about England – Drayton’s poetry is not read much now. That is, with the notable exception of this one sonnet, beginning ‘Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part’, which is widely anthologised and reasonably well-known. The poem is deft enough to make a little closer analysis of its language rewarding and useful.

Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part.
Nay, I have done, you get no more of me;
And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
That we one jot of former love retain.
Now at the last gasp of Love’s latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies;
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes—
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
From death to life thou might’st him yet recover! Read the rest of this entry