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The white man's burden Katherine Aust - a satirical view from an 1899 edition of Life Magazine
This 1890s advertisement for soap uses the theme of the White Man's Burden, encouraging white people to teach cleanliness to members of other races.

"The 'White Man's Burden" is a poem by the English poet Rudyard Kipling. It was originally published in the popular magazine McClure's in 1899, with the subtitle The United States and the Philippine Islands.[1] Although Kipling's poem mixed exhortation to empire with sober warnings of the costs involved, imperialists within the United States latched onto the phrase "white man's burden" as a characterization for imperialism that justified the policy as a noble enterprise.[2][3][4][5][6]

The poem was originally written for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, but exchanged for "Recessional"; Kipling changed the text of "Burden" to reflect the subject of American colonization.[7] The poem consists of seven stanzas, following a regular rhyme scheme. At face value it appears to be a rhetorical command to white men to colonize and rule people of other nations for their own benefit (both the people and the duty may be seen as representing the "burden" of the title). Because of its theme and title, it has become emblematic both of Eurocentric racism and of Western aspirations to dominate the developing world.[8][9][10] A century after its publication, the poem still rouses strong emotions, and can be analyzed from a variety of perspectives.

Contents

Differing interpretations


The white man's burden - The Journal, Detroit, 1923.

This view proposes that white people consequently have an obligation to rule over, and encourage the cultural development of people from other ethnic and cultural backgrounds until they can take their place in the world by fully adopting Western ways. The term "the white man's burden" has been interpreted as racist, or taken as a metaphor for a condescending view of non-Western national culture and economic traditions, identified as a sense of European ascendancy which has been called "cultural imperialism". An alternative interpretation is the philanthropic view, common in Kipling's formative years, that the rich have a moral duty and obligation to help "the poor" "better" themselves whether the poor want the help or not.[11]

Witpoem makes clear the prevalent attitudes that allowed colonialism to proceed. Although a belief in the virtues of empire was wide-spread at the time, there were also many dissenters; the publication of the poem caused a flurry of arguments from both sides, most notably from Mark Twain and Henry James.[12] While Kipling may have intended the piece as a form of satire, much of Kipling's other writing does suggest that he genuinely believed in the "beneficent role" which the introduction of Western ideas could play in lifting non-Western peoples out of poverty and ignorance[citation needed]. Lines 3-5, and other parts of the poem suggest that it is not just the native people who are enslaved, but also the "functionaries of empire", who are caught in colonial service and may die while helping other races less fortunate than themselves. An analysis focused on the social status and background of colonial officers active at the time is lacking; as is one of the Christian missionary movement, also quite active at the time in parts of the world under colonial rule (e.g. the Christian and Missionary Alliance) which also emphasized the theme of aiding those less fortunate.

Some commentators also point to Kipling's history of satirical writing, and suggest that "The White Man's Burden" is in fact meant to undermine imperialism. Chris Snodgrass, in A Companion to Victorian Poetry[13] describes Kipling's poetry as "imperial sensibilities with wry irony and skepticism, viewing all human endeavors as ultimately transitory". Kipling also wrote many poems celebrating the working classes, particularly the common soldier. Six months after "The White Man's Burden" was published, he wrote "The Old Issue", a stinging criticism of the Second Boer War, and an attack on the unlimited, despotic power of kings. The Norton Anthology of English Literature argues it is no satire, but in line with Kipling's strong imperialism and a belief of a "Divine Burden to reign God's Empire on Earth", that other, less Christian nations would otherwise take.[7] Still, some find Kipling's work fascinating because his pro-imperialist stance did not blind him to the less glamorous and more perilous aspects of imperialism. According to Steve Sailer, writer John Derbyshire has described Kipling as "an imperialist utterly without illusions about what being an imperialist actually means. Which, in some ways, means that he was not really an imperialist at all."[14]

Several parodies and other forms of critical works have used themes or quotes collected from Kipling's poem. Early examples include Henry Labouchère's poem "The Brown Man's Burden" (1899),[15] British journalist Edmund Morel's 1903 article criticizing imperialist practices in the Congo Free State,[16] and Ernest Crosby's poem "The Real White Man’s Burden" (1902).[17]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "The White Man's Burden." McClure's Magazine 12 (Feb. 1899).
  2. ^ Zwick, Jim (December 16, 2005). Anti-Imperialism in the United States, 1898-1935. http://www.boondocksnet.com/ai/kipling/index.html. 
  3. ^ Miller, Stuart Creighton (1982). Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-03081-9.  p. 5: "...imperialist editors came out in favor of retaining the entire archipelago (using) higher-sounding justifications related to the "white man's burden."
  4. ^ Judd, Denis (June 1997). "Diamonds are forever: Kipling's imperialism; poems of Rudyard Kipling". History Today 47 (6): 37. : "Theodore Roosevelt...thought the verses 'rather poor poetry, but good sense from the expansionist stand-point'. Henry Cabot Lodge told Roosevelt in turn: 'I like it. I think it is better poetry than you say'."
  5. ^ Examples of justification for imperialism based on Kipling's poem include the following (originally published 1899-1902):
  6. ^ Pimentel, Benjamin (October 26, 2003), The Philippines; "Liberator" Was Really a Colonizer; Bush's revisionist history, The San Francisco Chronicle, p. D3, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/10/26/INGCN2GEK21.DTL&hw=Was+Really+Colonizer&sn=001&sc=1000 : charactizing the poem as a "call to imperial conquest".
  7. ^ a b Stephen Greenblatt (ed.), Norton Anthology of English Literature, New York 2006 ISBN 0-393-92532-3.
  8. ^ "Eurocentrism". In Encyclopedia of the Developing World. Ed. Thomas M. Leonard, Taylor & Francis, 2006, ISBN 0415976626, p. 636.
  9. ^ Chisholm, Michael (1982). Modern World Development: A Geographical Perspective. Rowman & Littlefield, 1982, ISBN 0389203203, p.12.
  10. ^ Mama, Amina (1995). Beyond the Masks: Race, Gender, and Subjectivity. Routledge, 1995, ISBN 0415035449, p. 39.
  11. ^ David Cody, The growth of the British Empire, Associate Professor of English, Hartwick College, (Paragraph 4)
  12. ^ John V. Denson (1999), The costs of war: America's pyrrhic victories, Transaction Publishers, pp. 405-406, ISBN 9780765804877, http://books.google.com.ph/books?id=IrAzsxzjIooC(note ff. 28 & 33). 
  13. ^ Snodgrass, Chris (2002). A Companion to Victorian Poetry. Blackwell, Oxford.
  14. ^ Sailer, Steve (2001). "What Will Happen In Afghanistan?". Published by United Press International. 26 September 2001.
  15. ^ Labouchère, Henry (1899). "The Brown Man's Burden" an anti-imperialist parody of Kipling's poem.
  16. ^ Morel, Edmund (1903). The Black Man's Burden. Fordham University.
  17. ^ Crosby, Ernest (1902). The Real White Man’s Burden. Funk and Wagnalls Company. pp. 32–35. http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5477/.  Published online by History Matters, American Social History Project, CUNY and George Mason University.

References

  • A Companion to Victorian Poetry, Alison Chapman; Blackwell, Oxford, 2002.
  • Chisholm, Michael (1982). Modern World Development: A Geographical Perspective. Rowman & Littlefield, 1982, ISBN 0389203203.
  • Cody, David. The growth of the British Empire. The Victorian Web, University Scholars Program, National University of Singapore, November 2000.
  • Crosby, Ernest (1902). The Real White Man’s Burden. Funk and Wagnalls Company, 32-35.
  • Dixon, Thomas (1902). The Leopard's Spots - A Romance of the White Man's Burden 1865-1900.
  • "Eurocentrism". In Encyclopedia of the Developing World. Ed. Thomas M. Leonard, Taylor & Francis, 2006, ISBN 0415976626.
  • Greenblatt, Stephen (ed.). Norton Anthology of English Literature, New York 2006 ISBN 0-393-92532-3
  • Kipling. Fordham University. Full text of the poem.
  • Labouchère, Henry (1899). "The Brown Man's Burden".
  • Mama, Amina (1995). Beyond the Masks: Race, Gender, and Subjectivity. Routledge, 1995, ISBN 0415035449.
  • Miller, Stuart Creighton (1982). Benevolent Assimilation: The American Conquest of the Philippines, 1899-1903. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-03081-9.
  • Pimentel, Benjamin (October 26, 2003). "The Philippines; "Liberator" Was Really a Colonizer; Bush's revisionist history". The San Francisco Chronicle: D3.
  • Sailer, Steve (2001). "What Will Happen In Afghanistan?". United Press International, 26 September 2001.
  • Snodgrass, Chris (2002). A Companion to Victorian Poetry. Blackwell, Oxford.
  • "The White Man's Burden." McClure's Magazine 12 (Feb. 1899).
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Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

The White Man's Burden
by Rudyard Kipling
This poem was written in regard to the U.S. conquest of the Philippines and other former Spanish colonies. It was originally published in the popular magazine McClure's Magazine - Volume 12 (1899), with the subtitle "The United States and the Philippine Islands".


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 hope to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden—
    No iron 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 ye 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 will or whisper,
    By all ye leave or do,
The silent sullen peoples
    Shall weigh your God and you.

Take up the White Man's burden!
    Have done with childish days—
The lightly-proffered 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.

PD-icon.svg This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1936, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.


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