Rudyard Kipling

(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936 / Bombay)

A Song of the White Men - Poem by Rudyard Kipling


Now, this is the cup the White Men drink
When they go to right a wrong,
And that is the cup of the old world's hate-
Cruel and strained and strong.
We have drunk that cup- and a bitter, bitter cup-
And tossed the dregs away.
But well for the world when the White Men drink
To the dawn of the White Man's day!

Now, this is the road that the White Men tread
When they go to clean a land-
Iron underfoot and levin overhead
And the deep on either hand.
We have trod that road- and a wet and windy road-
Our chosen star for guide.
Oh, well for the world when the White Men tread
Their highway side by side!

Now, this is the faith that the White Men hold-
When they build their homes afar-
'Freedom for ourselves and freedom for our sons
And, failing freedom, War.'
We have proved our faith- bear witness to our faith,
Dear souls of freemen slain!
Oh, well for the world when the White Men join
To prove their faith again!

Comments about A Song of the White Men by Rudyard Kipling

  • Michael WalkerMichael Walker (7/30/2019 11:39:00 PM)

    The poem is marred by white racism, which can only be partly explained by the times in which Kipling lived.
    There is an assumption that White Men are superior to other races in every way-what they drink, the roads they tread, the faith they share. I cannot agree with Kipling's assertions here.

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  • A. Madhavan (4/18/2017 10:32:00 PM)

    I know that Rudyard Kipling is famous-to-notorious for his phrase, the white man's burden and for
    his jingoism; but he remains memorable for me for his mystical Indian story. 'Miracle of Puran Bhagat',
    the novel, 'Kim' and the remarkable poem, 'Recessional', which 'The Times' of London published in its
    edit page on Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee,1897. I like to consider Kipling as pleading for cultural
    and humane values, addressing all humans regardless of skin pigmentation, ethnic, national or credal
    variations. AM

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  • Lawrence BeckLawrence Beck (4/18/2017 4:41:00 PM)

    This poem is absolutely disgusting. It should not have been posted. (Report)Reply

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  • Oilibheir Álain ChristieOilibheir Álain Christie (4/18/2017 8:07:00 AM)

    Kipling is controversial; especially today with our incurable lapsing into self-flogging.
    Today, western (Caucasian) peoples are deemed guilty of practically every wrong that ever occurred in Human History. And Kipling's writings are pretty much seen as an apology for British imperialism - and western imperialism at large.
    Kipling espoused the ideas of his own period. There was nothing wrong about imperialism in Victorian England. Imperialism was seen as a civilization mission until the mid XXth century.
    Today it gets more and more demonized. And the ex-colonized peoples seen as innocent victims of the white man's greed and lust for power.
    Maybe the truth lies in the middle of it all. A happy medium.
    As a matter of fact, Indian people are quite happy to resort to English language when they communicate with fellow-nationals who speak a totally different language. There are fifty-six different languages in India; not counting the dialects (correct me if I'm wrong) .
    Gandhi & Nehru knew that keeping the English-speaking heritage would be an invaluable asset for the unity of India.
    Things just cannot be all evil or all good. They have their merits and their shortcomings.

    Lantz PierreLantz Pierre(4/18/2017 11:39:00 PM)

    Points well made. And I largely agree with what you are saying. But a choice, or simply a comparison of two evils is still not a demonstration of the greater good that can be accomplished. A discussion of what is bad and what is worse is not the same as an effort to obtain what is good. Kipling was a product of his time and cultural and must be recognized as such. Broadly speaking, he defended the actions of the white ruling class and their avaricious and predominately self-serving methods and goals. He was human and wrote about human lives infusing a very British modicum of decency into the pieces he created about he saw going on. He was an apologist. Maybe unwittingly, maybe too much a part of it to apart from it, but he did not seek to subvert the system which provided him with a level of comfort.
    As for the colonialists loving the countries where they settled, uh, no great conquering empire has been able to endure that propped up its rule only with threats and violence. But no empire was ever created out of an egalitarian and selfless devotion to the betterment of others. Empire is about enriching the self (however you want to define or generalize the term. In the corporate world that means the share-holders) .

    Oilibheir Álain ChristieOilibheir Álain Christie(4/18/2017 6:15:00 PM)

    No one wishes to sidestep all the questions of morality or wave them away, Pierre. I just wish to relativize the debate. You see, I was in my teens in the late 60s. We were all willing to trash the old value system of our ancestors, not suspecting that rejecting it altogether would only pave the way to a more sneaky rampant form of imperialism; an imperialism with no flags, no uniforms but far more wicked: the economic imperialism brought by Goldman-Sachs, Monsanto and their likes.
    I'd really like to read what the Indian people would have to say (and there's quite a bunch of them on as a commentary to this.
    The old nationalistic colonialism looks soft compared to the ruthlessness of the transnational businesspeople.
    At least the colonialist loved the countries where they had settled; they loved it so much as to live there. And they have had their merits together with their failings. At least, they achieved some form of sustainable development while they were there. I don't mean to absolve them of all their abuses and barbaric doings. I just fear the newer form of sneaky transnational imperialism is far worse.

    Lantz PierreLantz Pierre(4/18/2017 9:57:00 AM)

    Kipling's writings are definitely representive of the common held sentiments of a particular period and outlook in the history of British colonialism. There's nothing controversial about that. His writings are important as reflection of a time and place in which he was a first-hand observer. Growth depends on our knowledge of where we have been. But to sidestep all the questions of morality is, in my opinion, to abdicate one's responsibility as an artist. Not all are guilty, just as there is probably no one who is entirely innocent. But the history of the British Empire is certainly one that was motivated by greed and lust for power. The noble rationales were a salve for gross injustices it perpetrated. Moral equivalencies cannot pave over the unethical bearing of the barons that marshaled the nation to commit atrocities. Not all societies behave this way. You can not wave it away by citing how useful it has made the English language.

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  • Kayode Are (4/18/2017 3:45:00 AM)

    trod that road.....failing freedom, War. Succinct reminder from a sage. (Report)Reply

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  • Edward Kofi LouisEdward Kofi Louis (4/18/2017 1:35:00 AM)

    Faith-bear witness! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us. (Report)Reply

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  • Bernard F. AsuncionBernard F. Asuncion (4/18/2017 1:14:00 AM)

    Our chosen star for guide.... thanks for posting (Report)Reply

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  • Lantz PierreLantz Pierre (4/18/2017 12:53:00 AM)

    Racist, imperialist British bullshit. A horrifying historical document to remind us of the enduring ignorance and arrogance of the human species as we set out to right wrongs and indulge our greedy appetites. (Report)Reply

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  • Ratnakar Mandlik (1/8/2016 4:36:00 AM)

    Beautiful narration of the spirit of white men who had once worked for, freedom for ourselves and freedom for our sons only.
    Beautifully crafted realistic poem by a master spirit. Thanks for sharing.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, January 8, 2016

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