Routledge

Rudyard Kipling’s poem "Take up the White Man’s burden"

Introduction: R. Kipling (1865-1936) was born in India and educated in England. He returned to India in 1882 and lived there for seven years, working as a journalist. His "Jungle Book" for children and his famous novel „Kim“ reflect his Indian experience. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907. His poem "Take up the White Man’s Burden" was written under the impression of the American conquest of the Philippines, but it was also influenced by the experience of British imperialism in India. Often misunderstood as a praise of imperialism, it was actually an ironic reflection on the imperialist’s vain endeavour.

Take up the White Man's burden
Send forth the best ye breed—

Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
Take up the White Man's burden—
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
And hundred times made plain
To seek another's profit,
And work another's gain.
Take up the White Man's burden—
The savage wars of peace—
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to naught.
Take up the White Man's burden—
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper—
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go make them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.
Take up the White Man's burden—
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,

The hate of those ye guard—
The cry of hosts ye humour

(Ah, slowly!) toward the light
"Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"
Take up the White Man's burden—
Ye dare not stoop to less—
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloak your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.
Take up the White Man's burden—
Have done with childish days—
The lightly proferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.

Comes now, to search your manhood

Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers.

 

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