Rudyard Kipling

(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936 / Bombay)

The Female Of The Species

Poem by Rudyard Kipling

When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
He shouts to scare the monster who will often turn aside.
But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail,
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When Nag, the wayside cobra, hears the careless foot of man,
He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can,
But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail -
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

When the early Jesuit fathers preached to Hurons and Choctaws,
They prayed to be delivered from the vengeance of the squaws -
'Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale -
For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man's timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
For the Woman that God gave him isn't his to give away;
But when hunter meets with husband, each confirms the others tale -
The female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Man, a bear in most relations, worm and savage otherwise,
Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise;
Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.

Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
Mirth obscene diverts his anger; Doubt and Pity oft perplex
Him in dealing with an issue - to the scandal of the Sex!

But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same,
And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.

She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
May not deal in doubt or pity - must not swerve for fact or jest.
These be purely male diversions - not in these her honor dwells -
She, the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else!

She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate;
And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unclaimed to claim
Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.

She is wedded to convictions - in default of grosser ties;
Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him, who denies!
He will meet no cool discussion, but the instant, white-hot wild
Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.

Unprovoked and awful charges - even so the she-bear fights;
Speech that drips, corrodes and poisons - even so the cobra bites;
Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw,
And the victim writhes with anguish - like the Jesuit with the squaw!

So it comes that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer
With his fellow-braves in council, dare not leave a place for her
Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
To some God of abstract justice - which no woman understands.

And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
Must command but may not govern; shall enthrall but not enslave him.
And She knows, because She warns him and Her instincts never fail,
That the female of Her species is more deadly than the male!

Comments about The Female Of The Species by Rudyard Kipling

  • Michael WalkerMichael Walker (8/13/2019 8:41:00 PM)

    I will not delete my comments on Kipling's poem.(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Michael WalkerMichael Walker (7/30/2019 11:45:00 PM)

    In some ways, an original, refreshing poem, so different to today's pro-female propaganda and men-hating feminists. 'The female of the species is more deadly than the male' summarizes the poem and it is a startling judgment. Kipling produces plenty of evidence for his assertion.(Report)Reply

    Michael WalkerMichael Walker(8/1/2019 8:38:00 PM)

    When I referred to 'today's pro-female propaganda' and militant feminists, I was referring only to my own country, New Zealand.

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Ripper Moore (4/4/2008 3:20:00 PM)

    Such a delightfully vicious poem! I love this work, but I find that most people who quote it miss the message. Kipling is not saying women are more inherently dangerous on a pound for pound basis, or more likely than a man to win fair fight; he is saying a woman, when she deems violence necessary, is more likely to act decisively, without scruple, and without being so foolish as to allow a fair fight. Man's instinct is to 'win a competion', whereas Woman's is to 'remove a threat', and that subtle distinction makes her, when the occasion warrants it, more ruthless and unpredictable, thus more deadly.(Report)Reply

    Michael WalkerMichael Walker(8/13/2019 8:40:00 PM)

    A subtle, penetrating comment, which basically says it all. When I referred to 'pro-female propaganda', I meant the New Zealand newspapers, mainly, which always endorse women's rights, but never men's rights. Television is much the same, although I have little or no time for their news programs.

    Brian in Chile(8/3/2018 1:56:00 AM)

    A rather astute analysis, my literate friend.

    14 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
Read all 6 comments »

Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Read poems about / on: woman, justice, husband, anger, god, women, pride, sometimes, war, children, child, mother, fear, heaven, death, warning, wedding

Poem Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002