Wednesday, November 19, 2008

To My Son, Upon Reaching The Age of Nine Years

Now you sleep in your bed, waiting for your early wake up, breakfast in bed and presents before leaving for school on your ninth birthday. But as it is already after the hour of 2:00 am on November 20th in Bahrain, the country you were born in, you are already nine.

What an amazing person you are. Bright, energetic, funny, a natural at math, writing and singing. A mind hungry to learn about the world around you and the sciences that make it work, and a voracious appetite for boyish silliness. A caring and loving big brother and a fine young gentleman. I could never have foretold the joy you have brought me.

There was a boy born in India nearly 150 years ago, who grew up to be a great author. He wrote great stories, poems and books, for grown-ups and children. He wrote of men, women, children, animals, wars and adventures. He wrote of bravery, honor, decency and commitment. There are some today who think he was warlike, prejudiced and imperialist; maybe he was, but he was also wise. I would like to pass some of that wisdom to you:

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!
Happy Birthday, son.




MRMacrum said...

Nice birthday tribute. Excellent choice for a poem. That Rudyard was later thought to be a racist, imperialist, etc is predictable. He was. So were all the Brits at that time. It's always about context. One era cannot condemn the acts of another unless they are also casting a jaundiced eye on their own times.

Should I condemn my Uncle who railed against the blacks moving into his neighborhood in Jersey back in the 60s? He was a product of his enviroment. As was Kipling.

Michael said...

Agreed re: poem choice. Judgements for or against kipling don't alter my appreciation of this work.

Dawn on MDI said...

A boy whose father selects poems to read for his birthday has a head start on the world already. Happy birthday to the young man and kudos to his father.

Stickthulhu said...

Thanks, All.

Mr Macrum - you absolutely should not. I wasn't trying to imply that Kipling should be, either but rather, like you mention, he was who he was.

Michael - welcome. I think he's great too, but it's been such a long time since I've read anything by him. Maybe I need to dust him off as well.

Dawn - my dad did the same for me. I thought he was being nutty and uncool. Now I know why he did it.

MRMacrum said...

Stick - I was not implying you were judging Kipling. I guess I was more judging the people in the 20th century who judge him based on their new view of how the World should turn.

Twain, Kipling, and others who have been maligned by the intellectuals that came after them makes me mad. That their views would be out of character today is not even something we should worry about. Enjoy and appreciate the powerful literature they left us and move on. Which is what you did.