Poetry: Being A Man By Kipling

1585 words - 6 pages

Similarly, Kipling approaches the concept of life in a prudent manner and forms a series of advice to the reader in the didactic poem “If.” The poet informs the reader on how to balance their life and become a trustworthy leader in society. The main themes presented in “If,” are leadership and maturity. The poem is considered to be a “memorable evocation of Victorian stoicism and the "stiff upper lip" that popular culture has made into a traditional British virtue.” “The stiff upper lip,” is a phrase originated from Sparta in Ancient Greece and most commonly heard of as part of the idiom “keep a stiff upper lip,” which means to face misfortune bravely and to suppress any display of emotion. Kipling presents these two meanings skillfully in the poem. “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you” or “If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,” are one of the many advises Kipling gives in the poem that all lead to one success; being “a Man.” Kipling has combined “Spartan toughness with Stoic detachment,” presenting not only the ideal of the “stiff upper lip” in the poem but the overall achievement of Manhood and leadership in life. “The stiff upper lip,” is a phrase that has become symbolic to the British and has particularly inspired the English public school system during the age of the British Empire where Kipling at that age had endured “harsh discipline,” at his school.
Another similar poem that expresses “a memorable evocation of Victorian stoicism and the stiff upper lip” is William Ernest Henley's poem “Invictus” which means unconquered in Latin. The poem represents Henley’s struggle with tuberculosis, a lethal disease he had fallen victim to at the age of twelve. The poem depicts the true meaning of courage, even in the face of death in a similar manner as the poem “Do not go gentle…” which encourages the aged to fight against their death. “Invictus” portrays an image of strength and holding on to one’s self-esteem despite the obstacles of life placed before them. “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul” these last two lines of the poem sum up stoicism beautifully. Henley strongly emphasizes with the repetition of “I am” that no one is in control of his choices and that no one can change who he is. The poem slightly contrasts to “Once Upon a Time,” that emphasizes how easily influenced we are by others and how the persona in the poem isn’t what he used to be and is a stranger even to his own reflection. His laugh in the mirror shows only “teeth like a snake’s bare fangs.” This negative simile shows how he doesn’t even seem to trust himself, as a snake is seen to be poisonous and not to be trusted. The persona however believes that he is not the reason for this change in him since he apparently has no control over the influence of others.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,” also presents many themes dealing with life. Dylan Thomas had written the poem at the time his father was on the verge of death....

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