Rudyard Kipling

(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936 / Bombay)

Christmas In India - Poem by Rudyard Kipling

Dim dawn behind the tamerisks -- the sky is saffron-yellow --
As the women in the village grind the corn,
And the parrots seek the riverside, each calling to his fellow
That the Day, the staring Easter Day is born.
Oh the white dust on the highway! Oh the stenches in the byway!
Oh the clammy fog that hovers
And at Home they're making merry 'neath the white and scarlet berry --
What part have India's exiles in their mirth?

Full day begind the tamarisks -- the sky is blue and staring --
As the cattle crawl afield beneath the yoke,
And they bear One o'er the field-path, who is past all hope or caring,
To the ghat below the curling wreaths of smoke.
Call on Rama, going slowly, as ye bear a brother lowly --
Call on Rama -- he may hear, perhaps, your voice!
With our hymn-books and our psalters we appeal to other altars,
And to-day we bid "good Christian men rejoice!"

High noon behind the tamarisks -- the sun is hot above us --
As at Home the Christmas Day is breaking wan.
They will drink our healths at dinner -- those who tell us how they love us,
And forget us till another year be gone!
Oh the toil that knows no breaking! Oh the Heimweh, ceaseless, aching!
Oh the black dividing Sea and alien Plain!
Youth was cheap -- wherefore we sold it.
Gold was good -- we hoped to hold it,
And to-day we know the fulness of our gain.

Grey dusk behind the tamarisks -- the parrots fly together --
As the sun is sinking slowly over Home;
And his last ray seems to mock us shackled in a lifelong tether.
That drags us back how'er so far we roam.
Hard her service, poor her payment -- she is ancient, tattered raiment --
India, she the grim Stepmother of our kind.
If a year of life be lent her, if her temple's shrine we enter,
The door is hut -- we may not look behind.

Black night behind the tamarisks -- the owls begin their chorus --
As the conches from the temple scream and bray.
With the fruitless years behind us, and the hopeless years before us,
Let us honor, O my brother, Christmas Day!
Call a truce, then, to our labors -- let us feast with friends and neighbors,
And be merry as the custom of our caste;
For if "faint and forced the laughter," and if sadness follow after,
We are richer by one mocking Christmas past.


Comments about Christmas In India by Rudyard Kipling

  • Douglas Scotney (12/26/2015 11:49:00 PM)

    the odd Oh and O is crazy, but 7 spell 'lazy'. (Report) Reply

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  • Francis Lynch Francis Lynch (12/26/2015 7:02:00 PM)

    He was racist, prejudiced and biggoted, and one sees it in all his works. He was in favor of Irish genocide. (Report) Reply

  • Francis Lynch Francis Lynch (12/26/2015 7:00:00 PM)

    Reminds me of Charlie Brown's mother: Wah...wah...wah.. (Report) Reply

  • Terry Craddock Terry Craddock (12/26/2015 3:58:00 PM)

    Kipling has a wonderful power focus to perceive India in a moment and ask contrast questions

    'Dim dawn behind the tamerisks - the sky is saffron-yellow -
    As the women in the village grind the corn,
    And the parrots seek the riverside, each calling to his fellow
    That the Day, the staring Easter Day is born.
    Oh the white dust on the highway! Oh the stenches in the byway!
    Oh the clammy fog that hovers
    And at Home they're making merry 'neath the white and scarlet berry -
    What part have India's exiles in their mirth? '

    These wonderful lines delight with 'the sky is saffron-yellow', depict reality with 'the women in the village grind the corn', then contrast 'the Day, the staring Easter Day is born' not with salvation of the world but with 'white dust on the highway! Oh the stenches in the byway! Oh the clammy fog that hovers'; which changes tempo with 'at Home they're making merry 'neath the white and scarlet berry - ' before displacing the expats with 'What part have India's exiles in their mirth? '.

    It seems the exiles are betrayed as masters enslaving the Indians doing all the work continued from village women grinding corn to

    'Call on Rama - he may hear, perhaps, your voice!
    With our hymn-books and our psalters we appeal to other altars,
    And to-day we bid good Christian men rejoice!

    Good Christian men are rejoicing but not living Christian lives except for a toast as

    'They will drink our healths at dinner - those who tell us how they love us,
    And forget us till another year be gone!
    Oh the toil that knows no breaking! Oh the Heimweh, ceaseless, aching!
    Oh the black dividing Sea and alien Plain!
    Youth was cheap - wherefore we sold it.'

    It seems while the masters party on Christmas day Indians are still in the fields toiling under a hot sun doing back breaking work. Does Kipling define the lot of the Indian workers? The next stanza is a lament for Indian

    'As the sun is sinking slowly over Home;
    And his last ray seems to mock us shackled in a lifelong tether.
    That drags us back how'er so far we roam.
    Hard her service, poor her payment - she is ancient, tattered raiment -
    India, she the grim Stepmother of our kind.
    If a year of life be lent her, if her temple's shrine we enter, '

    Kipling has written not a descriptive poem about India, but a comment on the British Empire in India, with the final stanza defining a difference between the British masters, who enter not into disapproved Indian shrines culture customs food in this time period, with the attitude of caste Indians who honour Christmas Day

    'With the fruitless years behind us, and the hopeless years before us,
    Let us honor, O my brother, Christmas Day!
    Call a truce, then, to our labors - let us feast with friends and neighbors,
    And be merry as the custom of our caste;
    For if faint and forced the laughter, and if sadness follow after,
    We are richer by one mocking Christmas past.'

    India is soaked in time glory suffering, but above all an attitude and ability to endure, to survive wait to attain a better life future for her children and generations to come. Kipling has perceived when we honour life nature all people, we only then truly attain an walk in Christian ideals; he indicates within this poem that except for the word Christian, many native Indians have already attained aspired to Christian lives in works and deeds.

    Kipling has an exceptional touch and insight, and is worth not skim reading, but reading in depth, by all who love India in the romantic past and possibilities present.10+++ (Report) Reply

  • Kim Barney (12/26/2015 10:46:00 AM)

    Kipling was born in India, and countless children (and adults) have enjoyed his stories, such as The Jungle Book. I enjoyed reading this descriptive poem about India.
    I especially liked the cynical lines:

    They will drink our healths at dinner - those who tell us how they love us,
    And forget us till another year be gone! (Report) Reply

  • V S (12/26/2015 3:21:00 AM)

    after hundreds of years we are the same and have never changed our way of life, as our country side is terrible neglected, but

    the conches from the temple scream and bray.
    With the fruitless years behind us, and the hopeless years before us', is the slap on our faces..we have survived all these attacks and will survive forever, (Report) Reply

  • Ratnakar Mandlik (12/26/2015 2:20:00 AM)

    Narration of Christmas celebrations in the country side in India and the whole panorama is superb. Enjoyed the portrayal of the country side too. Thanks for sharing. (Report) Reply

  • Anil Kumar Panda Anil Kumar Panda (12/26/2015 1:06:00 AM)

    Beautiful India.Nice poem. (Report) Reply

  • Luo Zhihai Luo Zhihai (12/16/2014 3:31:00 PM)

    India is a great country (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: christmas, brother, fog, home, laughter, women, sky, sun, together, hope, sea, friend, woman



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003



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