Sunday, 8 November 2009

"If" By Rudyard Kipling

My Father read aloud to us when we were young.
Our favourite stories were among the writings of Rudyard Kipling.
As long as I can remember, during the course of my father Roelof's working life, he had this poem framed and hanging on the wall beside his desk.
He knew it off by heart as we came to know it too.

Recently I was reminded of the sometimes bitter struggles that emerge from the quest for possession of the riches derived from the various things that we all strive to achieve, creativity in all the varying arenas of human activity from the arts, science, music, historical research, etc.

There are always those people who are envious of our achievements, bitter from a perceived lack of recognition who would seek to undermine the work and worth of others rather than take the risk to sample the opportunity of striving for themselves.

Kipling states it succinctly in this poem.


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 imposters 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!

Joni Mitchel recognised the power of these words and has put this poem to music.
It features on her latest album, "Shine"


  1. Well said, Rudyard, and well said, Harmen.
    What you have throughout, though, is dignity; something not perceived by those without it.
    You have my respect.

  2. Tim Peever - Chemical Engineer - Uinversity of Waterloo 198420 December 2009 at 15:03

    From The Princetonian:
    The Sons of Martha
    By Brian Kernighan Columnist
    Published: Monday, May 7th, 2007

    In 1922, Rudyard Kipling was commissioned to create a ceremony for graduating Canadian engineering students. This secret "Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer," which I went through in 1964, is held in early May. The only public manifestation is that Canadian engineers wear, on the little finger of the working hand, an Iron Ring symbolizing the engineering profession.

    Modern iron rings are stainless steel; mine, which predates that era, rusted for months until my finger came to an understanding with it. I often identify Canadian engineers by their rings, and I still have the one that my father received in 1931 and wore until his death.

    In 1907, Kipling wrote a poem called "The Sons of Martha," which he used as part of the iron ring ceremony. His inspiration came from Luke 10:38-42. Jesus visited Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, at their home. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to hear him speak; Martha, worried about providing for her eminent guest, complained to Jesus that Mary was not helping. Jesus chided her gently, and, in Kipling's poem, her descendants forever after are consigned to working in the background to help everyone else: the sons of Mary.

    Kipling's poem speaks mostly of heavy machines and those who operate mechanical systems (and of course he wrote before women engineers), but the spirit of the poem applies far beyond that. Translated into modern terms, most of us pay no attention to those who work long and hard behind the scenes with little recognition, let alone thanks. Think about them the next time that someone nearly invisible keeps the machinery working for you. Where would we be without today's sons and daughters of Martha?


Toroa by Harmen Hielkema & Mike Toy.

Header Photo: Toroa at Rawene by Julie Holton.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of my father Roelof Hielkema who instilled in me the willingness to learn.
These pages are intended to inform and add to the growing body of knowledge concerning the Canoe Culture of the Pacific, past, present & future, from the Tupuna, the Ancestors of the Pacific cultures to the people of the world.

These pages contain Images and text relating to our two proas, Toroa & Takapu, some history relating to our experiments & experiences.

The dissertation that I posted on this blog in April 2008 "Takapu The Proa" was written by me in 1997 in response to an assignment that I was set whilst studying for my design degree. The dissertation covers many issues that a proa enthusiast may benefit from reading about.

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Waka reflect the individuality and uniqueness of a society which in turn is governed by the geography, geology, topography, climate, location, resources, isolation, origin, flora, fauna, flotsam, jetsam, etc.

Waka are our link to the past, they have shaped our present and define our future.

Waka are the vessels of knowledge, physical and mental development, freedom of bondage to the land, key to our inquisitiveness, expressions of our ingenuity and courage, our love of shape and form, the seat of our power.

Waka are the source of our material culture, from which all processes are derived.

Waka are who and what we are.