Sunday, April 4, 2010

Children's Book Author or Reviled British Imperialism Poet?

When people hear of Rudyard Kipling, they often reflect happily upon a childhood, filled with the stories of adventure with the characters of the Jungle Book, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and The Man Who Would Be King.  But, when you think of Rudyard Kipling, do you think of "racial superiority", racism, or Social Darwinism?  I would wager that most among you are pondering why I would even link the two together, Kipling and racism. 

Perhaps you did not know that Kipling penned the White Man's Burden, a poem that extolled the racial superiority of the "White Man" and the God-given right to go into "exile" in an effort to "civilize" the world for those less fortunate "heathens".  Read for yourself and see what I mean.

White Man's Burden   (by Rudyard Kipling)

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 cloke (1) 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!