Sunday, October 14, 2007

Improving Kipling

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 ...
Delighted I am that one of my favourite singer-songwriters, Joni Mitchell, has recorded a new album, her first collection of original songs since 1998.

Anyone who has been through English SPM exam in the past few years will recognise the lyrics to the last track - it's a musical interpretation of Rudyard Kipling's classic poem If. Mitchell says of the poem:

It gives me optimism. It's a good grocery list, very difficult to live up to. The thing about this ... is that you can't really change the world, the only thing you can do is work on yourself.
But she felt that she needed to "improve" on Kipling's words as she felt that Kipling's emphasis on endurance was overly macho, compounded by his concluding "you'll be a man, my son". (And I would agree too, as someone who found herself teaching teachers how to teach the poem!):

To endure is important, but that's not how you inherit the earth. My experience tells me that the earth is innocence, with wonder and delight, which is renewable. I wanted to get the feminine principle into the poetry. ... It needed rewriting.
The Kipling Estate agreed with her and let her make the changes.

You can listen to the song here.

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