Written in 1909 as advice to his son, Rudyard Kipling's "If" qualifies as a quintessential poem for a young boy. For over a century, Kipling's poem has inspired young boys to strive to achieve great things, undeterred by adversity and setbacks.
The poem's narrator speaks to his son in four stanzas of eight lines each, describing several challenging situations a boy may encounter as he enters the world of adulthood, and an appropriate response encouraging resourcefulness, perseverance, self-reliance and integrity. The poem famously begins with the verse: "If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you."
The narrator acknowledges that his son may encounter men less virtuous than himself, but advises him not to let them drag him down, in the lines "Or being lied about, don't deal in lies," and "Or being hated don’t give way to hating."
He further warns that his son's hard-won achievements could all be undone and urges him not to despair over the loss, but to continue to strive to achieve more. The poem builds to a crescendo, ending on a note that has inspired generations of boys to make the most of their lives.