When I was a child, things did not always go well. In fact things might go badly. It might be that I did not get a passing grade at school. Or, that I chanced to break a window with an errant swing of the bat. For these things and others I always had an excuse that would begin with the word “If”.

To which my father replied,

“If ‘ifs’ and ‘ands’ were pots and pans, there’d be no need for tinkers.”

Then, I would be instructed to sit in in a time-out chair or go to my room to study the errors of my ways.

Chairs to sit in to rest for a spell or go see it now.


Poems to read when life does not go well, “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!

Background story

Kipling’s poem, written in 1895, was addressed to his son as worldly advice on how to handle the difficulties and set backs that will inevitably occur in life. It is said that Kipling had in mind the celebrated Leander Starr Jameson as he wrote the poem. Starr became infamous for his participation the failed Jameson Raid that took place between the end of the First Boer War and the beginning of the Second Boer War.

Jameson’s raid on the South African Boers failed. The govenor of the Cape Colony, the Prime Minister of England, all who had an interest in the success of the raid, repudiated Jameson and his goal of capturing Johannesburg and overthrowing the Boer government.

For trying to bring glory to Britain, Jameson was tried back in London and sentenced to jail.

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