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About this poet

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born December 30, 1865, in Bombay, India, to a British family. When he was five years old, he was taken to England to begin his education, where he suffered deep feelings of abandonment and confusion after living a pampered lifestyle as a colonial. He returned to India at the age of seventeen to work as a journalist and editor for the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore. Kipling published his first collection of verse, Departmental Ditties and Other Verses, in 1886 and his first collection of stories, Plain Tales from the Hills, in 1888.

In the early 1890s some of his poems were published in William Ernest Henley's National Observer and later collected in to Barrack-Room Ballads (1892), an immensely popular collection which contained "Gunga Din" and "Mandalay." In 1892 Kipling married and moved to Vermont, where he published the two Jungle Books and began work on Kim. He returned to England with his family in 1896 and published another novel, Captains Courageous. Kipling visited South Africa during the Boer War, editing a newspaper there and writing the Just-So Stories. Kim, Kipling's most successful novel (and his last), appeared in 1901. The Kipling family moved to Sussex permanently in 1902, and he devoted the rest of his life to writing poetry and short stories, including his most famous poem, "If—". He died on January 18, 1936; his ashes are buried in Westminster Abbey.

Selected Bibliography


Barrack-Room Ballads (1892)
Departmental Ditties and Other Verses (1886)
The Five Nations (1903)


Something of Myself for My Friends Known and Unknown (1937)


Captains Courageous (1897)
Just-So Stories (1902)
Kim (1902)
Plain Tales from the Hills (1888)
Stalky & Co. (1899)
The Jungle Book (1894)
The Light That Failed (1891)
The Second Jungle Book (1895)

Poetry & Prose

A Diversity of Creatures (1917)
Rewards and Fairies (1910)

The Conundrum of the Workshops

When the flush of a newborn sun fell first on Eden's green and gold,   
Our father Adam sat under the Tree and scratched with a stick in the mold;   
And the first rude sketch that the world had seen was joy to his mighty heart,   
Till the Devil whispered behind the leaves: "It's pretty, but is it Art?"   
Wherefore he called to his wife and fled to fashion his work anew— 
The first of his race who cared a fig for the first, most dread review;   
And he left his lore to the use of his sons—and that was a glorious gain   
When the Devil chuckled: "Is it Art?" in the ear of the branded Cain.   
They builded a tower to shiver the sky and wrench the stars apart,   
Till the Devil grunted behind the bricks: "It's striking, but is it Art?" 
The stone was dropped by the quarry-side, and the idle derrick swung,   
While each man talked of the aims of art, and each in an alien tongue.   
They fought and they talked in the north and the south, they talked and they fought in the west,
Till the waters rose on the jabbering land, and the poor Red Clay had rest—   
Had rest till the dank blank-canvas dawn when the dove was preened to start,  
And the Devil bubbled below the keel: "It's human, but is it Art?"   
The tale is old as the Eden Tree—as new as the new-cut tooth—   
For each man knows ere his lip-thatch grows he is master of Art and Truth;   
And each man hears as the twilight nears, to the beat of his dying heart,   
The Devil drum on the darkened pane: "You did it, but was it Art?"  
We have learned to whittle the Eden Tree to the shape of a surplice-peg,   
We have learned to bottle our parents twain in the yolk of an addled egg,   
We know that the tail must wag the dog, as the horse is drawn by the cart;   
But the Devil whoops, as he whooped of old: "It's clever, but is it Art?"   
When the flicker of London's sun falls faint on the club-room's green and gold,  
The sons of Adam sit them down and scratch with their pens in the mold—   
They scratch with their pens in the mold of their graves, and the ink and the anguish start   
When the Devil mutters behind the leaves: "It's pretty, but is it art?"   
Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the four great rivers flow,   
And the wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago, 
And if we could come when the sentry slept, and softly scurry through,   
By the favor of God we might know as much—as our father Adam knew.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling

Joseph Rudyard Kipling is best known for his novels The Jungle Book, The Second Jungle Book, and Kim, and his most famous poem, "If".

by this poet

Oh! hush thee, my baby, the night is behind us, 
   And black are the waters that sparkled so green. 
The moon, o'er the combers, looks downward to find us 
   At rest in the hollows that rustle between. 
Where billow meets billow, there soft be thy pillow; 
   Ah, weary wee flipperling, curl at thy ease! 
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
You may talk o' gin an' beer   
When you're quartered safe out 'ere,   
An' you're sent to penny-fights an' Aldershot it;   
But if it comes to slaughter   
You will do your work on water,            
An' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got it.   
Now in Injia's sunny clime,   
Where I used to spend