The White Man's Burden

by Rudyard Kipling

First published in McClure's Magazine (Feb. 1899).


Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go, bind your sons to exile
To serve your captive's 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 iron 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 those ye humor
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought ye 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 will or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent sullen peoples
Shall weigh your God and you.

Take up the White Man's burden!
Have done with childish days--
The lightly-proffered 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.
Line

Rudyard Kipling is, in his grand style, the bard of British Imperialism, and in his dialect poems, the voice of the common soldier. Anyone interested in the military history ofour time owes it to himself to become at least passingly familiar with Kipling's soldierly verse.

Some believe that Kipling will be increasing criticized in the future, because his exultation in the supposed moral and cultural superiority of European (and specifically British) civilization makes liberal-minded readers wince. It's bad enough taking someones land but then to tell them that you're only doing for their own good is really adding insult to injusry. But the human virtues that Kipling is most concerned with - courage, duty, honor, decency, commitment and grit - he is quick to recognize in men and women from all classes and races. That he shared and promoted the near-universal prejudices of the Nineteenth Century worldview should not diminish our appreciation of his artistic achievements.

Reading Kipling introduces a few extra difficulties; born and reared in India, he liberally seasons his verse with Asian and African words, and his soldier poems are written in the lower-class dialect of the archetypical British enlisted man, dropping final "g"s and any "h"s which are normally sounded. In the selections below, the gloss on the right side of the work explains any terms not obvious to the average American reader, but because of the variables of web publishing, the glossed word may not appear directly opposite the line it refers to in any particular browser, monitor and operating system; so the reader may have to hunt a bit.