Gunga Din

Friday, August 19, AD 2011

The sixth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling.   The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here and here.

Kipling is usually regarded, and often dismissed, as the poet laureate of British Imperialism.  A close examination of his poetry and stories reveals a good deal more complexity than that.  A prime example of this is Kipling’s poem Gunga Din, written in 1892:

You may talk o’ gin and beer
When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere,
An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im that’s got it.
Now in Injia’s sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin’ of ‘Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.
He was “Din! Din! Din!
You limpin’ lump o’ brick-dust, Gunga Din!
Hi! slippery hitherao!
Water, get it! Panee lao!
You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.”

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3 Responses to Gunga Din

  • To me: best part is

    “You may talk of gin and beer
    When yer quartered safe out ‘ere
    And yer sent ta penny fights
    And Aldershot it.

    But when it comes to slaughter
    You’ll do yer work on water
    And lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im what’s got it.”

    Here we have a vet teaching recruits. He finishes the lesson with the truth that some among that “black faced crew” are better men than you and me.

    My Dad (RIP) told me gin and beer could take the legs out from under you. I never tried.

  • Thanks, Donald. Kipling was earnest, yes, and sincere in his supposed ‘burden.’ I don’t know if that’s the nuance you’re referring to. That he was imperialistic can’t be denyed. His was a time of decadence, though. Folks were jaded. The rich were, at least. People couldn’t get enough of the ‘exotic,’ but civilization arrived. It seemed there wasn’t much else to do. I think that’s why they rushed into WWI.

  • Gin and sake are loathsome drinks.