Study Guide

If Politics

By Rudyard Kipling


In a poem that was inspired by a major political event (the Jameson Raid, an attempt to colonize South Africa further) you'd think there would be more politics in there. Despite the fact that there isn't a lot of obvious political business going on, however, this really is a political poem—just think of that reference to kings, crowds, and common people, or the whole business about taking control of the earth. Whether it seems to be or not, "If" is a poem about all kinds of different political issues (leadership, control of land, gender roles, etc.).

Questions About Politics

  1. Okay, so why do you think Kipling left out any specific references to the Jameson Raid, in this poem? 
  2. Are there any lessons to be learned from this poem that could apply to modern politics? How?
  3. How useful is the advice here to, say, the President of the United States? Would you want that person to follow the speaker's lead? Why or why not?
  4. Does this seem like a politically correct poem to you? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Politics is all about striking out a middle course, being able to talk to kings and commoners and remaining immune to harm from one's friends and enemies.

This stuff is terrible advice for a politician. After all, their first job should be to communicate with their people, not bottle everything up inside in order to portray some invented ideal of how to act.

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