Song Lyrics

If

by Joni Mitchell

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If you can keep your head
While all about you
People are losing theirs and blaming you
If you can trust yourself
When everybody doubts you
And make allowance for their doubting too.

If you can wait
And not get tired of waiting
And when lied about
Stand tall
Don't deal in lies
And when hated
Don't give in to hating back
Don't need to look so good
Don't need to talk too wise.

If you can dream
And not make dreams your master
If you can think
And not make intellect your game
If you can meet
With triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same

If you can force your heart
And nerve and sinew
To serve you
After all of them are gone
And so hold on
When there is nothing in you
Nothing but the will
That's telling you to hold on!
Hold on!

If you can bear to hear
The truth you've spoken
Twisted and misconstrued
By some smug fool
Or watch your life''s work
Torn apart and broken down
And still stoop to build again
With worn out tools.

If you can draw a crowd
And keep your virtue
Or walk with Kings
And keep the common touch
If neither enemies nor loving friends
Can hurt you
If everybody counts with you
But none too much.

If you can fill the journey
Of a minute
With sixty seconds worth of wonder and delight
Then
The Earth is yours
And Everything that's in it
But more than that
I know
You'll be alright
You'll be alright.

Cause you've got the fight
You've got the insight
You've got the fight
You've got the insight

© 2007; Crazy Crow Music

Footnotes to If

As told to Dan Ouellette:

My friend called me up and read this Rudyard Kipling poem to me over the phone. As soon as I heard it, it resonated with me, and I wanted to set it to music. I love the opening line: "If you can keep your head/While all about you/People are losing theirs and blaming you." So, I wrote down the words, went to my house in Vancouver and made a song out of it. It's the only song that I wrote up there on the guitar.

The poem is written from a soldier's perspective, so I rewrote some of the poetry. Kipling wrote, "If we can fill the journey/Of a minute/With 60 seconds worth of distance run/Then you'll be a man, my son."

I disagree with him, philosophically speaking, that endurance gives you the inheritance of the earth. My experience tells me that the earth is innocence, with wonder and delight, which is renewable. The blue heron on my property flies overhead, and I'm a 3-year-old. I'm filled with wonder and delight. So I rewrote that part of the poem as "If you can fill the journey/Of a minute/With 60 seconds worth of wonder and delight." Kipling's version is macho; I wanted to get the feminine principle into the poetry."

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