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The White Mans Burden
Posted by: iriesugar (76.160.75.---)
Date: September 14, 2008 02:53AM

Hello I am reading The White Man's Burden by Kipling and I am suppose to analyze and summarize this poem. I think that the poem is talking about the arrogance of the White Man. It seems as if the white man felt he could start conflicts and it was okay as long as it was beneficial to him. It also shows that he thought that the people who he saved was ungrateful for him saving them. He was there to make people better but those that he attempted to make better hated him.
If you have any opinion that is different please let me know or it you have a different take. I need helpsmiling smiley

Re: The White Mans Burden
Posted by: IanAKB (124.168.52.---)
Date: September 14, 2008 12:25PM

Irie, there's some discussion here:

[en.wikipedia.org] />
I think that the poem is talking about the arrogance of the White Man. It seems as if the white man felt he could start conflicts and it was okay as long as it was beneficial to him.

I can't see where in the poem you get any of that! Have you read it carefully, to understand it stanza by stanza,?

The poem was addressed generically to the "White Man". Many have assumed that means the British, since Kipling was English and it was written when the power and reach of the British Empire were at their height, but in fact it was addressed by him to the Americans in relation to their then recent colonization of the Philippines.

It seems to me that the whole poem is telling the Americans to do their duty to try and improve the lives of the people they have brought under their rule, but not to expect any cooperation or gratitude in return. In the repeated exhortation to "Take up the White Man's Burden", the word "burden" is really used in those dual senses. It is both an assumed duty towards primitive, impoverished peoples, and the resulting ingratitude that the do-gooder must expect to have to bear.

Specifically the poem says to the Americans: no matter how many of your best men you send there to devote and even sacrifice their lives to the tasks [stanzas 1 and 4], and no matter how well you succeed in fighting the battles of peacetime, such as eliminating hunger and disease [stanza 3], and even though you don’t appear threatening or arrogant, but instead repeatedly declare your intention to put the people’s interests ahead of your own [stanza 2], and even though you don’t make unworthy demands to be treated like royalty, but instead muck in and do the hard labour needed to build ports and roads for use by the local people, never by you [stanza 4], you will find you get no thanks or warmth [“thankless years … Cold” in stanza 7]. You will find the people silent and sullen [stanzas 1 and 6], like wicked children ["half-devil and half-child" in stanza 1]. They will frustrate you with their laziness and stupid superstitions ["sloth and heathen Folly" in stanza 3], which will "bring all your hopes to naught" [stanza 3]. They will blame and hate you [stanza 5], and just complain about being released from their serfdom [the “Egyptian night” metaphor in stanza 5, which alludes to the enslavement of the biblical Israelites before Moses led them out of captivity]. But you daren’t abandon the task, because they will judge you by what you weary of, and by what you fail to do [stanza 6]

The 7th and last stanza counsels the Americans not to entertain any immature notions about earning easy accolades for their efforts. They just need to know that their true worth as men will be observed and judged by their wise equals (their “peers”).

Who could those equals with “dear-bought wisdom” be? The answer can only be the English. Their wisdom, so stanza 7 implies, had been acquired at great cost from their experiences of taking up the “White Man’s Burden” within the British Empire.

It is a pity that reaction against the political and social assumptions in Kipling’s poetry has dominated modern commentary on it, and has discouraged acknowledgment of his exceptional technical skills as a poet. He had an outstanding talent for coining memorable original concepts and phrases which he incorporated in readable, tightly written verse using regular metre and rhyme, and which became part of the language. The phrase “White Man’s Burden” is a good example. That’s why Kipling’s work will be remembered and quoted long after the writings of his ‘politically correct’ modern critics are forgotten. I don’t know whether your teacher expects you to analyze and criticize this poem mainly from a political or social point of view. Many teachers do, unfortunately.

Kipling’s poetry was very popular because he gave memorable expression to the attitudes of his day. The British Empire grew in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly from about 1840 onwards under Queen Victoria. The controllers of it were certainly guilty of much insensitivity and exploitation of their colonies from time to time, but the Victorian Age was also one of much idealism. The “White Man’s Burden” concept articulated by Kipling was really a development of the imperative of “noblesse oblige”. Those who have power and wealth have a moral responsibility to help those less fortunate. This ideal was readily applicable to the native peoples in the imperial colonies. It also provided the English with a welcome moral justification for the maintenance of their Empire.

Any apparent ingratitude on the part of those helped was not seen as evidence that there was cultural oppression of them going on. Rather it was seen as an irrationality proving their backwardness. The steadfastness of the helper in continuing to provide the help despite such ingratitude was seen as enhancing the nobility of the exercise.

Kipling’s assumptions in this poem about the backwardness, laziness and stupidity of the Philippines population with whom the Americans had to deal may seem appallingly patronizing and racist to modern readers. It was all no doubt far from accurate for that country. But as a generalization based on British experiences in many far flung parts of their Empire the poem was probably not so far from reality. There was a much greater difference then than now between the high living standards of the upper and middle classes in imperial England, then the wealthiest country on earth, and those (scarcely above subsistence level) of the native populations in many of the colonies.

This poem, with its apparent assumption that the Americans needed a lecture from the wise English, might also have been regarded as a little patronising towards the Americans. I have not heard however that it got that reaction. It could equally have been read as a respectful salute and expression of comradely moral support, based on English beliefs about the difficulties that the Americans would face.

I wonder whether the well publicized difficulties faced by the Americans now trying to bring democracy to the Middle East give some of the contents of this poem a revived relevance.

I must end these over-long comments now Irie, with my standard caution. Please don’t take anything I have said as authoritative. I may be inaccurate, especially in my summaries of the historical context. Nevertheless I hope some of what I have said will help you to do your assignment using your own words.

Ian .

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 09/14/2008 09:22PM by IanAKB.

Re: The White Mans Burden
Posted by: iriesugar (76.160.75.---)
Date: September 14, 2008 06:57PM

Ian, please don't feel as if you were too long. I enjoyed every line. I have learned so much in this short time. I reread the poem several times and I could see your point. Unfortunately one can misconstrue this poem by the title. I guess I read it too fast with a close mind, so therefore I saw what I wanted to see, instead of being unbias I was bias in my thinking. Thanks to you I can now embrace this poem and see the poet for the genius he was. Unfortunately, as you said so many people don't recognize it. Thanks for you help, I could not have done this without you

Re: The White Mans Burden
Posted by: IanAKB (124.168.52.---)
Date: September 15, 2008 09:46AM

Might as well put up the poem that this thread is about, for others who might casually drop in.

The 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 naught.

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 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!) 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 cloak your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
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 proferred laurel,
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.

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