Rudyard Kipling, 1899

Kipling is sometimes more problematic than others, and never more so than right here. Was it Auden who said Kipling would be "forgiven his views for writing well"? (Yep: "In Memory of W. B. Yeats", section III, fourth verse). Anyhow, the views expressed herein are repugnant to me (in case that's not obvious), but the old boy sure could write and that's why it's here: Not only for its literary worth, but also because he expressed so well the ideology of an empire which had a massive impact on damn near everything.

Love him or hate him, you can't ignore him.



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,
An 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 nought.

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 mark 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!



moJoe: No.

Kipling's specific reason for writing The White Man's Burden was basically intended as, in Albert Herring's phrasing, 'an exhortation to the US to carry out its imperialist "duty" in the Philippines, which it did, with some enthusiasm and casualties.'

The New York World printed this response when the U.S. was trying to figure out how to treat those territories, such as the Philippines, which it had won from Spain during the Spanish-American War:

We've taken up the white man's burden
Of ebony and brown;
Now will you kindly tell us, Rudyard,
How we may put it down?

This stanza was published without a title, and apparently without a particular author listed. I got it from a page which asked that it be cited as:

New York World. "We've Taken Up the White Man's Burden." New York World, rpt. The Public 2 (July 15, 1899). http://www.boondocksnet.com/kipling/nyworld.html In Jim Zwick, ed., Anti-Imperialism in the United States, 1898-1935. http://www.boondocksnet.com/ail98-35.html (May 14, 2001).

In 19th century thought, the "White Man's Burden" was a version of noblesse oblige exercised by the 'superior' European races towards 'lesser' races found in Africa and Asia. Whites had a duty to introduce these barbarians to the joys of modern civilization, usually by taking control of their societies and imposing a new order on them by force.

What is truly astounding about the concept of "White Man's Burden" is that many Victorian whites actually believed it. This was not simply a rationalization for them; they thought they were bringing enormous good to barbaric cultures and 'uplifting' races that, in their minds, really were inferior.

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