IF: Covid-19 rework

Submitted by jono on 22 Mar 2020.

I love the poem IF. On lockdown in Spain, I came up with a version for these strange times:

IF: Covid-19 rework

If you keep your distance, though all about you
Are careless with theirs, and encroaching;
If you can be trusted when all men doubt you,
But trust no-one back, least yourself;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or hearing lies, don't deal in lies,
Or hearing blame, don’t give way to blaming,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can comprehend – and be guided by comprehension
If you can self-isolate – and find solace in isolation
If you can video-call with symptomatic and asymptomatic
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truths told
Twisted by clickbait to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And return to build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one family of all humanity
And determine to give a toss,
And step aside - to thin the crowd
And reduce the burden on others;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To put first those who will be left to die - alone,
And so flatten the curve when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Be mindful!’

If you can talk by phone and keep your distance,
And surfaces - do not touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends are exposed by your actions,
Or unwashed hands;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With twenty seconds’ worth of soap and water,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And - which is more - you’ll be a Man, my son!

***

nb. If IF offends, substitute: men -> people, Man -> decent human being, son -> child, or similar! Kipling's poem was intended as advice for his son, so isn't inherently discriminatory in that context.

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