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Created/Modified: 2010-10-05/2010-10-05
If you can stand before the door of dreams
and watch it open, and then turn away
when they appear much smaller than they seemed,
or if there is a price too high to pay;
If you can put ambition on the shelf--
for money or for fame or worldly things--
and seek instead a different kind of wealth:
the joy of children dreaming in the spring;

If you can take an offer from your God
to ease your pain, to fill your broken heart
and turn it down, declaring it a fraud,
even as the tears of mourning start;
If you can hold your mind to only reason,
If you can seek the ordinary truth,
If you refuse faith's simple, tempting treason,
and equally the trap of lies abstruse;

If you can face a life-or-death decision
and make it in the certainty of doubt;
if you can live with anger and division
while never letting either win a rout;
If you can learn and keep an awful secret,
the death of worlds so quiet in your mind;
If you resist the rantings of the zealot;
If you create a home that's warm and kind;

If you can seek the beauty of the evening
without denying loveliness to dawn
and feel the depth of sadness that is grieving
while joyously recalling those now gone;
If you accept that life must end in dying
yet still give all you have within to give
these fleeting years will seem no longer flying:
then you will know all that it means to live.

I haven't categorized this as a pastiche because it isn't: it's a variation on a theme. Kipling's "If--" may be the most popular modern English poem, but although Kipling was a modern poet, he still looked back to his brutal Victorian roots, and "If--", with its stoic emotional repression, is one of his more deeply Victorian poems.

Me, I dunno what I am. I can hardly call myself "post-modern", for reasons too complex to go into here.

So this is my variation on the theme of Kipling's "If--". It certainly has its melancholy and even stoic aspect. The formative events of our lives are not the happy and easy ones, and this poem reflects who I am as deeply as something consisting of a single sentence broken across four verses of eight iambic pentameter lines of ABAB rhyme is capable of doing.

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