Imperialism poems


Modern History Sourcebook:
Rudyard Kipling, The White Man's Burden, 1899


This famous poem, written by Britain's imperial poet, was a response to the American take over of the Phillipines after the Spanish-American War. 

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!

 

Anna Manning Comfort, "Home Burdens of Uncle Sam," The Public 2 (May 13, 1899)
In her poem, Comfort asks Uncle Sam why he is seeking other countries when there are many burdens here in the United States. What does she say about the nation and Native Americans, African Americans, women, and corrupt politics in the U.S.? In what way does she offer a critique of imperialism by emphasizing these domestic concerns and this history?

"Take up the white man's burden,"--
Yes, Uncle Sam, oh do!
But why seek other countries
Your burdens to renew?
Great questions here confront you.
Then, too, we have a past--
Don't pose as a reformer!
Why, nations look aghast!

"Take up the white man's burden,"--
But try to lift more true.
Recall the poor wild Indian
Whom ruthlessly you slew.
Ignoble was our treatment,
Ungenerous we dealt
With him and his hard burden,
'Tis known from belt to belt.

"Take up the white man's burden,"--
The negro, once our slave!
Boast lightly of his freedom,
This problem still is grave.
We scoff and shoot and lynch him,
And yet, because he's black,
We shove him out from office
And crowd him off the track.

"Take up the white man's burden,"--
Yes, one of them is sex.
Enslaved are your brave women,
No ballot, while you tax!
Your labors and your conflicts
Columbia's daughters share,
Yet still denied the franchise,
Quick give! be just! deal fair!

"Take up the white man's burden,"--
Start in with politics.
Clean out the rotten platform,
Made up of tricks and tricks,--
Our politics disgraceful,
In church and school and state.
We have no "ruling bosses,"
Oh, no! the country's great.

"Take up the white man's burden,"--
But, oh, if you are wise
You'll seek not "motes" far distant,
With "beams" in your own eyes.
Why fight the foreign despots,
Or Filipino isles?
Come, "scrap it" with "home tyrants!"
And politicians' wiles.

"Take up the white man's burden,"--
Right here in our own times.
Give justice, 'tis demanded
This side of distant climes.
Yes, take the white man's burden,
But take it here at home;
With self, oh, Samuel, wrestle,
And cease the seas to roam!

Syracuse, N.Y.

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