The White Man’s Burden Poem By Joseph Rudyard Kipling Summary, Notes And Line By Line Analysis In English


Rudyard Kipling drew into the imperialist mindset in this controversial poem and what he and others perceived as the “white man’s burden.” The poem’s initial intent was to honor the UK royal family’s historic Diamond Jubilee. It first appeared in 1897 but subsequently served as advice for the American troops conquering the Philippines. As a result, it got the necessary modification in 1899 and then made a comeback.

This proves that the White Man is ultimately responsible for bringing civilization to the world. It is generally believed that the Anglo-Saxon race and culture are superior, although some critics and even the general public have attributed this load to the introduction of Christianity. The phrase “the White Man’s burden” is more well-known than the full poem, which accounts for its popularity.

About the poet

 Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English author, short story writer, poet, and journalist. He grew up in British India and is best known for his short stories, including Kim, the Just So Stories, the Jungle Book duology, and many others.

He was nominated for the British Poet Laureateship and the knighthood after receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907, but he refused both. His standing has evolved along with the social and political atmosphere of the time, and he is today seen as an unrivaled interpreter of how the empire was felt.

Stanza 1

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. 

The opening verse of Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden” is racially insensitive. The speaker is attempting to include someone else in a duty or profession that pertains to white males. The native Filipinos who were just liberated by America from Spanish tyranny are those to which the speaker is alluding. The speaker elaborates on what the “best” bred white males will be doing in the next four lines.

They will labor hard, as shown by the metaphorical comparison to workhorses wearing a “heavy harness”. The speaker refers to the local people as “fluttered folk” and “wild” and compares them to butterflies or birds because they lack control and direction. The speaker thinks that because this newly captured people group will not be providing any assistance, the white man’s work will be so difficult.

Stanza 2

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. 

The poet repeats the phrase, “Take up the White Man’s burden—,” and provides information on how the men should behave in the second stanza of “The White Man’s Burden.” They ought to display patience in contrast to the minority that the speaker is oppressing.

The white guys should demonstrate their supremacy since they are inferior to others. To accomplish their jobs and exert the best possible influence over this other group, they must also keep their pride in check. In the subsequent lines, Kipling’s speaker’s message remains exclusionary.

He advises the speaker to talk slowly and plainly because the audience won’t be able to comprehend anything complex. The speaker attempts to emphasize that the work they are exerting is for “another’s gain,” yet it is difficult to believe that given the approach he is taking. 

Stanza 3

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.

The speaker elaborates on the white man’s intentions to assist the local people after the refrain. They must first establish peace after all the brutality the people endured at their hands. The speaker says that even if “savage wars” are necessary to achieve this aim, so be it. This contradiction serves as a fantastic illustration of the contradictory viewpoints and attitudes at the heart of “The White Man’s Burden.”

“Fill full the mouth of famine” is what they will do. Famine personified should be exterminated from the regions. They must “bid the sickness cease” as well. This implies that they need only make a simple request to cure illnesses. The speaker continues in the following four lines by stating that it will probably break apart after everything has been completed. The alleged “Sloth” and “Folly” of the native population are to blame for this. 

Stanza 4

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 !

The men who come to this country, if only in name, to aid the Filipino natives are not coming there to ascend to the throne. This endeavor is not about fame or gain. It’s a tale about “serf and sweeper,” or diligent workers and diligent employees.

The speaker declares that the white men will not find any enjoyment in this effort. They won’t be permitted to enter the city or cross the streets. They just have to labor, and some of them could pass away. 

Stanza 5

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 !) towards the light:- 
"Why brought ye us from bondage, 
    "Our loved Egyptian night ?" 

Another repetition of the refrain is used by the speaker to add to the poem’s theme that “blame” and “hate” are the only rewards that the white man will receive for his labors. The speaker’s perceived underclass will despise the “betters,” the white guys. 

The speaker of “The White Man’s Burden” claims that those the white men assist (conquer) will be terribly unhappy in the next four lines. They’ll wail in agony, lamenting their lost enslavement, as if they were the Jews who had been set free from slavery in Egypt. 

Stanza 6

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. 

All of the speaker’s points should be understood by the men chosen for the duty, and they should approach this issue head-on. The two of them shouldn’t “stoop to less” or whine. When they’re actually simply being idle, they shouldn’t scream “Freedom” in protest. This task cannot be avoided easily. They will have to put in a lot of effort, put up with the native peoples’ opinions, and cope with their various religious convictions. 

Stanza 7

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 judgement of your peers. 

In the concluding stanza the speaker makes one more effort to persuade the white guys to take the necessary action. They should quit being immature and young and start acting like guys who can handle themselves. The guys will earn wisdom and their peers’ esteem after their long days of labor. It should be something that appeals to everyone the poetry is intended for.