Library     The White Man's Burden
Add Favorite

The White Man's Burden

by Rudyard Kipling

1899

Font Size A A A A

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was a British writer who is best known for The Jungle Book. In 1899, he wrote “The White Man’s Burden.” Originally subtitled with "The United States and the Philippine Islands," Kipling wrote this poem after the Spanish-American War, during which the United States acquired the Philippines from Spain. This poem sparked considerable controversy when it was written, including H.T. Johnson’s response—a poem called “The Black Man’s Burden,” because of its claim that the duty of white men was now to go to the Philippines in order to "civilize" the island's people.

 As you read, take notes on how Kipling might have come to his opinion on the Philippines, and how he justified this stance.
"The White Man's Burden" by Dan Meliton is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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[1] folk and wild—

Your new-caught, sullen peoples,

Half devil and half child.Q1

Take up the White Man’s burden—

In patience to abide,[2]

To veil the threat of terror

And check[3] 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[4] folly

Bring all your hope to nought.[5]Q2

Take up the White Man's burden—

 No iron rule of kings,

But toil of serf[6] 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!) to the light:

"Why brought ye us from bondage,

Our loved Egyptian night?”[7]Q3

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,[8]

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!Q4

The White Man's Burden by Rudyard Kipling is in the public domain.

Notes

  1. Fluttered (adjective):

    describing someone who moves or behaves in an agitated, aimless manner

  2. Abide (verb):

    to wait for; to withstand; to accept without objection

  3. Check (verb):

    to stop, slow, or hold back something, often something undesirable

  4. Heathen (adjective):

    uncivilized

  5. A variant spelling of “naught” – meaning “nothing.”

  6. A member of a servile class bound to work the land and subject to the will of the land’s owner

  7. May be referencing the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, in which Moses leads the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt.

  8. An evergreen shrub or tree, whose leaves were once used by the ancient Greeks to crown victors

  1. Fluttered (adjective):

    describing someone who moves or behaves in an agitated, aimless manner

    x
  2. Abide (verb):

    to wait for; to withstand; to accept without objection

    x
  3. Check (verb):

    to stop, slow, or hold back something, often something undesirable

    x
  4. Heathen (adjective):

    uncivilized

    x
  5. A variant spelling of “naught” – meaning “nothing.”

    x
  6. A member of a servile class bound to work the land and subject to the will of the land’s owner

    x
  7. May be referencing the book of Exodus in the Old Testament, in which Moses leads the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt.

    x
  8. An evergreen shrub or tree, whose leaves were once used by the ancient Greeks to crown victors

    x

Text-to-Speech Settings

Voice Speed

Translation: Target Language

Don't see the target language you were looking for? Contact us here and let us know!