"If—" is a poem by British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, written in 1895 and first published in Rewards and Fairies, 1910. It is a tribute to Leander Starr Jameson. The poem is written in the form of paternal advice to the poet's son, John. As poetry, "If—" is a literary example of Victorian-era stoicism.
The initial publication of the poem "If—" was in the "Brother Square Toes" chapter of the book Rewards and Fairies (1910), a collection of Kipling's poetry and short-story fiction. In the posthumously published autobiography Something of Myself (1937), Kipling said that his poetic inspiration for the poem was the military actions of Leander Starr Jameson, leader of the failed Jameson Raid (December 1895 – January 1896) against the Transvaal Republic to overthrow the Boer Government of Paul Kruger some 15 years prior to its publication. The failure of that mercenary coup d’état aggravated the political tensions between Great Britain and the Boers, which led to the Second Boer War (1899–1902).
As an evocation of Victorian-era stoicism—the “stiff upper lip” self-discipline, which popular culture rendered into a British national virtue and character trait, "If—" remains a cultural touchstone. The British cultural-artifact status of the poem is evidenced by the parodies of the poem, and by its popularity among Britons.
In India, a framed copy of the poem was affixed to the wall before the study desk in the cabins of the officer cadets at the National Defence Academy, at Pune and Indian Naval Academy, at Ezhimala. In Britain, the third and fourth lines of the second stanza of the poem: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / and treat those two impostors just the same” are written on the wall of the players’ entrance to the Centre Court at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, where the Wimbledon Championships are held.
The Indian writer Khushwant Singh considered the poem "the essence of the message of The Gita in English."
The poem was adapted and performed as a song by Joni Mitchell on her 2007 album Shine. It was also performed by Roger Whittaker under the title "A Song for Erik". 'If—' is also referred to in the song 'If (When You Go)' by Judie Tzuke from the album Moon on a Mirrorball, as well as in the second verse of "Sowing Season", a song by rock band Brand New on their album The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me.
The poem is recited almost in full by actor Ricky Tomlinson in the title role of the 2001 film, Mike Bassett: England Manager.
There is a classical translation in French by André Maurois, then interpreter with the British Army during the First World War. It was published in "Les silences du colonel Bramble" (1921), chap. XIV (Collection Poche, pp. 93s.).
The poem is quoted in the 1979 film, Apocalypse Now by the photographer played by Dennis Hopper.
The poem, in an abbreviated form, is quoted in White Squall (1996) by McCrea (the English teacher played by John Savage).
Grandpa Simpson quotes an abbreviated portion in Old Money as justification to betting at Roulette all the winnings of a recent inheritance.
Bridget Jones was powerfully struck by “If-”: “Poem is good. Very good, almost like self-help book”.
In 2016, the Boston Red Sox used the poem in full for a short video tribute to retiring player David Ortiz, narrated by Kevin Spacey.