The White Man’s Burden and Response

Make sure you read this for our next class meetings on the B/C days. You might want to take some notes comparing the two poems. You should have seen the first one last year, and I would suggest you find out who Rudyard Kipling was.
What do these two poems suggest about imperialism (and anti-imperialism)?

The White Man’s Burden
Rudyard Kipling, 1899

This famous poem, written by Britain’s imperial poet, was a response to the American take over of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War. What was Kipling saying about colonialism? How should the word “burden” be interpreted, and who exactly carries this 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 nought.

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 mark 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 cloke 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!

Then this response was published in an African-American newspaper…

Why Talk of the White Man’s Burden?
By Bruce Grit, The Colored American (D.C.) (Feb. 25, 1899).

This poem was written in response to Kipling’s and published in a major African American newspaper.

Why talk of the white man’s burden;
What burdens hath he borne
That have not been shared by the black man
From the day creation dawned?

Why talk of the white man’s burden,
Why boast of the white man’s power
When the black man’s load is heavier,
And increasing every hour?

Why taunt us with our weakness,
Why boast of your brutal strength;
Know ye not that the children of meekness
Shall inherit the earth — at length?

“Take up the white man’s burden!”
What burdens doth he bear,
That have not been borne with courage
By brave men everywhere?

Then why the white man’s burden?
What more doth he bear than we —
The victims of his power and greed
From the great lakes to the sea?

This poem was published without a title. It is provided here from the first line.

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