The poem Charlton Heston read to me. 1923-2008

It was around 1999 and I was in London and Heston was playing in a two-person show with his wife when I got to meet him backstage. I only had mere seconds to meet this admired legend as he signed his book. Instead of praise I decided to ask him a question. Knowing that he just wrote a book on manhood, I said “How does one inspire courage in others?”. In his deep booming voice he read me the last 8 lines of Rudyard Kilpling’s Poem “If”. It was a powerful moment coming from a man who lived that poem, and I have never forgoten it since.

Below is that poem read by a great actor who marched with Martin Luther King and stood up for our Second Amendment rights.

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:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

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Posted by at 12:58 | Posted in Measure 37 | 8 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Jason W.

    I have to add this one thing. I feature the picture of Heston from the movie Ben-Hur. It won 11 academy Awards which has been never been exceeded. It has been tied recently by Titanic and Return of the King, but those films won with mostly technical catagories that did not exist in the 1950s. Ben-Hur often gets ignored when it comes to great movies.

    • Mike

      With I am Legend just out (remake of Heston’s Omega Man) it would have been nice to have had a reference to him in the new one. They do it for other movies, wish they would done this one, because you can’t see one without thinking of the other.

  • carol

    Kipling was a master of moving words, try reading his “Four-Feet”, and I subscribe to Charton Heston’s “out of my cold dead hands”

  • RinoWatch

    Bill Buckley and Charlton Heston. It’s a sad-sad start for ’08 for us Conservatives; especially with no candidate for President…..

  • Bob Clark

    I am afraid I don’t have Heston’s moxie for I would rather flee the “Blue” goons of Oregon and PDX than fight them over and over and over again. Wishing for a Rossi miracle up North.

  • Jason W.

    Where does all this downcast complaining come from? Re-read the poem and take heart.

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;

  • Kathryn Hickok

    Thank you for this story, Jason. It captures the man Charlton Heston is, and this is a great poem. I am printing this out.

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