1899 | New York City

Call to Arms

Rudyard Kipling takes up 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 hope 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 humor
    (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 cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry 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!


Rudyard Kipling

“The White Man’s Burden.” This poem first appeared in the February 1899 issue of McClure’s Magazine with the subtitle “The United States and the Philippine Islands,” referring to the former’s acquisition of the latter as a result of the Spanish-American War. Shortly after its publication, Kipling was in New York City suffering from pneumonia, a case of which did in fact kill his six-year-old daughter. For four years in the 1890s he had lived in his wife’s native Vermont, where he wrote The Jungle Book and Captains Courageous.