Rudyard Kipling is best known for his short stories, including his famous collection, "The Jungle Book," but his poetry is considered among the best ever written. His best known poems include "Mandalay" (1890), "Gunga Din" (1890), and "If-" (1910), all of which employ literary devices to beautifully express his thoughts.
Use of Literary Devices
Literary devices allow poets to choose their words to create style within meaning. Although all literary genres use devices to extend meanings, create romance and intrigue readers, poets depend on these tools in crafting poems. The way words are chosen is critically important, and the poet works within a restricted time and space to make a point and an impression, and literary devices provide magic. "Literary devices collectively comprise the art form’s components; the means by which authors create meaning through language, and by which readers gain understanding of and appreciation for their works," according to the website of The Center for Literary Devices at San Jose State University.
Kipling's Use of Literary Devices
"If-" is a favorite poem of many readers, and Kipling uses various literary devices in the poem. The poem is loaded with repetition, constantly asking, "if..." While readers contemplate the answers, most are unaware of the irony of the poem. According to poetryarchive.org, Kipling struggled to come to terms with events in his own life. "Kipling had used his influence to gain him his commission in the Irish Guards and suffered terrible guilt as a consequence, leading him to write a most un-Kipling-like sentiment: 'If any question why we died/Tell them, because our fathers lied.'" In the poem Kipling asks “if you could think and not make thoughts your aim” employing irony in this and every line in the poem.
According to kipling.org.uk, "More and more people are coming to appreciate his mastery of poetry and prose, and the sheer range of his work." Common poetic devices found in Kipling's poems are repetition, personification, alliteration, metaphor and rhyme. Repetition in "If-" is obvious. Kipling reuses the word you throughout the poem to direct the message to the reader or audience. Personification is evident in such statements as “…make dreams your master…” in line 9 and throughout Kipling's poems. The use of these devices makes the poems interesting and personal.
Technician and Master
Katherine Snell comments on OpenStarts website, "If nothing else it is recognized that Kipling was a great literary technician and his undoubted skill lay in his mastery of rhyming and versification, the hallmarks of all of his poetry. Ironically, it was these very qualities which contributed to the dismissal of many of his poems, by the majority of critics at least, as simple doggerel, worthless verse and sadly lacking in any of that high beauty of thought or language considered suitable of the poetic form."