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America's History in the Making

Resource Archive: Search Results

"The White Man's Burden" by Rudyard Kipling

White Man's Burden

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 your weariness;
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 preferred laurel,
The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bough wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!

Rudyard Kipling, "The White Man's Burden: The United States & The Philippine Islands, 1899." Rudyard Kipling's Verse: Definitive Edition (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1929).

Creator Rudyard Kipling
Context Philippine-American War and the ratification of a treaty in which Cuba, Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico came under U.S. control
Audience Readers of McClure's Magazine
Purpose To encourage the United States to take up the "burden" of empire

Historical Significance

In 1899, British poet Rudyard Kipling enjoined the United States to take up the "burden" of empire in his poem "The White Man's Burden: The United States and The Philippine Islands." Senator Henry Cabot Lodge noted that it was "rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansion point of view." For some, the idea of the "White Man's Burden" became a justification for American imperialism. An alternative reading of the poem cautions the United States on the heavy toll of imperialism.

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