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Poems “If” by Rudyard and “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley

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Perseverance is something that many people struggle with internally. The poems “If” by Rudyard and “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley offer advice on how to better persevere. Both poems, however, go about it in contrasting ways. While both “If” and “Invictus” touch on the topic of perseverance, they express it differently by using literary devices, circumstances mentioned, and the overall structure of the poems. Circumstances Throughout each poem, we are given various scenarios in which we are told to persevere. In the poem “If” the author lists several circumstances that the audience will be faced with throughout their life. The poem shares ways to deal with adversity and grow as a person. “Invictus” on the other hand, shares examples of circumstances the narrator went through himself. The author reveals certain situations they have been through and how they dealt with those situations. Rudyard Kipling talks about how we should not dwell on on disasters that we are faced with in lines 11-12.

He says, “If you can meet with triumph and disaster / And treat those two impostors just the same.” William Ernest Henley touches on the same thing in lines 7-8. He wrote, “Under the bludgeonings of chance / My head is bloody, but unbowed.” He is expressing that although he has physical scars, he has chosen to keep his head up and not dwell on these past situations. In lines 21-22 Kipling says, “If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew / To serve your turn long after they are gone.” He uses sinew, strong tissues or ligaments in the body, and heart and nerve, emotion, to portray a certain thing within the poem. You have to keep pushing forward even if it feels physically and emotionally impossible. The audience is really able to relate to this because most people go through trying times in their lives. We all have moments where we feel as if it is impossible to move forward. Kipling does a great job relating to his audience. Henley states, “Beyond this place of wrath and tears / Looms but the horror of the shade.”

He is indicating that no matter what he has suffered through, it does not compare to what the future brings. Henley presents the audience with the other side of the struggle. He has been through hardships himself and he knows that the future is much brighter than any bump in the road you will be faced with. Both poems include several examples of circumstances that we as a society go through. “If” presents circumstances that everyone will experience during their life, while “Invictus” shares experiences the narrator personally went through. The two poems are alike in terms of circumstances presented. They both convey the topic of perseverance, but in uniquely different ways. Literary Devices Each author uses several literary devices to elevate their poems. “Invictus” creates a strong sense of imagery throughout its four stanzas. Henley writes, “Black as the pit from pole to pole” and “Looms but the horror of the shade.” Henley evokes the audience to picture the setting of this poem in their head. “If” in contrast, does not have a setting really. The audience is able to relate to the poem though and visualize situations in their life that relate to each line. “Invictus” uses a simile in its second line to compare the darkness of the night to a pit.

“If” uses a metaphor to emphasize something rather than a simile. Kipling talks about watching things in your life be broken and having to build them back up again. The things Kipling talks about are not literally broken, but it emphasizes how bad they can get. Although both poems use literary devices, they use different ones to convey specific things. Structure “Invictus” and “If” are each structure very different from each other. These two poems contain four stanzas; “If” has eight stanzas, while “Invictus” has four. “If” contains a lot more substance compared to “Invictus.” Almost every other line of Kipling’s poem says, “If you can…” By using the repetition “If you can…” Kipling is able to guide the reader through his poem. It really allows the reader to get hooked so to speak. As you are reading you want to figure out what happens if you do what the lines say. “Invictus” does not have any repetition at the beginning of his lines. “ Invictus” follows a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef ghgh as you follow through the poem.

“If” has a rhyme scheme of aaaabcbc in each stanza. Kipling’s poem is easier to follow along with because of its repeated pattern. Each poem is structured completely differently. Even so, they are still able to portray what they are trying to efficiently. The overall messages of each poem are portrayed even with their differences in structure in mind. Evaluation Both “If” by Rudyard Kipling and “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley have quite a lot of information that can be taken from them. These poems are very motivational to the audience reading. “If” includes twice the amount of information as “Invictus” does. Kipling makes you want to read more with his use of repetition that guides you through his poem. His positive tone and witty lines offer up great advice. His writing is made to be personal with his use of the word “you.” Overall, Kipling does an amazing job at appealing to an audience, while Henley falls shorts.

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