The White Man’s BurdenScholars have long debated if White Man’s Burden is a love letter to imperialism or a satirical take-down – Kipling was an avid imperialist but was also a satirist, and his intentions with the piece aren’t fully understood. However, the poem and the term have been propelled to the heights of infamy due to the application of the core concept around the globe.
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.
Personally, I prefer Henry Labouchère’s acid-tongued retort, The Brown Man’s Burden:
Fascinating how both of these poems were written in 1899, but still resonate to this day. (By the way, these are excerpts – the full poems are available by following the links.)The rest of teh article is damn good too
Pile on the brown man’s burden
To gratify your greed;
Go, clear away the “niggers”
Who progress would impede;
Be very stern, for truly
‘Tis useless to be mild
With new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half devil and half child.
Pile on the brown man’s burden;
And, if ye rouse his hate,
Meet his old-fashioned reasons
With Maxims up to date.
With shells and dumdum bullets
A hundred times made plain
The brown man’s loss must ever
Imply the white man’s gain.
Pile on the brown man’s burden,
compel him to be free;
Let all your manifestoes
Reek with philanthropy.
And if with heathen folly
He dares your will dispute,
Then, in the name of freedom,
Don’t hesitate to shoot.
Pile on the brown man's burden,
And if his cry be sore,
That surely need not irk you--
Ye've driven slaves before.
Seize on his ports and pastures,
The fields his people tread;
Go make from them your living,
And mark them with his dead.
Pile on the brown man's burden,
And through the world proclaim
That ye are Freedom's agent--
There's no more paying game!
And, should your own past history
Straight in your teeth be thrown,
Retort that independence
Is good for whites alone.
Twelve Canticles for the Zealot ...
He wakes from a prolonged delirium, swears
He has seen the face of God.
God help all those whose fever never raged
Or has subsided.
Perched on church steeple, minaret, cupola
Smug as misericords, gleeful as gargoyles
On gables of piety, the vampire acolyte
Waits to leap from private hell
To all four compass points -- but will not voyage alone.
His variant on the doctored coin reads: Come with me or --
Go to -- hell!
He craves a parity
Beyond the contents of his skull.
A hundred thousand
Vacuities of mind are soon
Cowed beneath the grace and power
Of one gossamer quill -- yet
Beware the mute! Beware the furtive power
Of the mutant's blade.
The trade of healing takes strange turns.
Doctor and reservist, seeks the lethal path
To hearts of devotees in East Jerusalem,
Makes cadavers of believers turned
Eastwards in devotion -- then turns the barrel
Inwards -- still in hot pursuit?
For there are no post-mortems in the after-life
Though rigor mortis settles on the breath
They would be killers anyway, and anywhere.
Their world's a hiatus. Jerked to life,
They suck the teats of piety, briefly shed
A long cocoon of death. Dead eyes,
A death humility, death wish, dead end,
A death asymmetry that befits
A death-bound unbeginning.
Their mentors live, and thrive, instruct.
Behold their vengeance for a living death --
Wielding infantile gums but --
Teethed at school.
It was his own kind, nailed
Yitzak Rabin to crossroads of the Orient
Arms extended to the Heights
Of peace. Across the Suez, the ghost
Of his precursor on the viewing stand
Watched the grim replay of a familiar reel.
Ogun came riding through the streets
Of Jerusalem. The Chosen barred his way.
His bright metallic lore was profanation,
Railed the wandering tribe, custodian now
Of streets and pathways, closed on hallowed days
To songs of iron and steel, even a child's meandering
Bicycle, or infant's crib.
Come war, will they deny
The aid of iron? Come death
Can they delay the caller's blade
By plea of Sacred Feast?
The zealots' hands
Are stretched to rock the erring vehicle,
But not as rock the cradle of an infant peace.
Claws of hate, and clasp of closure reach
From pole to pole, embracing
Convertites of every faith. The maiming,
Killing act is all.
A god is nowhere born, yet everywhere.
But Rama's sect rejects that fine distinction --
The designated spot is sanctified, not for piety but --
For dissolution of yours from mine, politics of hate --
And forced exchange -- peace for a moment's ecstasy.
They turn a mosque to rubble, stone by stone,
Condemned usurper of Lord Rama's vanished spot
Of dreamt epiphany. Now a cairn of stones
Usurps a dream of peace -- can they dream peace
In iconoclast Uttar Pradesh?
The meek shall inherit the earth ...
Blessed are the peacemakers ...
Shalom ... Shalom ... Shalom ...
Irosu wonrin, irosu wonrin.
Salaam ailekum, ailekum
Shanti ... shanti ... shanti ...
Oom ... oom ... oom ... ooom ...
Seek havens of peace on ocean floors,
Submarine depths, in lost worlds, black holes
Collapsed galaxies, in hermit caves
In jungle fastnesses and arctic wastes
Thorns of crowns and hairy shirts, beds of nails,
The saintly cheek that turns the other side, but --
Not in texts, not by learned rote. It's there
The unmeek prove inheritors of the earth.
They are the scripture grooms, possessive
To the last submissive dot. Punctilious
Guards of annotations, they sleepwalk blind to all
But the fatal hiatus:
Boom for oom and -- sword for Word.
What is missing is -- fulfilled!
Ile gbogbo nle orisa ee, ile gbogbo nle orisa
Ile gbogbo nle orisa ee, ile gbogbo nle orisa
Enia lo m'orisa w'aiye oo
Ile gbogbo nle orisa ee*
Invent your god and forge his will
The home of piety is the soul.
I come from Ogun's land where
Women plant and teach and cure
Mould and build and cultivate,
Bestride the earth on sturdy thighs
Wipe sweat off open faces.
I come from Ogun's land where
Women spurn the veil, and men
And earth rejoice!
Cast the sanctimonious stone
And leave frail beauty shredded in the square
Of public shame. This murder
Is the rock of sin, the wayward veil
A mere pebble's glint.
Orunmila! Eleri ipin
Obiriti, Ap'ijo iku da ...**
Some words are coarse, obscene, indecent.
They make a case for censorship, such words as
Pagan, heathen, infidel, unbeliever, kafiri, etc.
The cleric swears he'll sweep the streets clean
Of the unclean, armed with Book and Beard. Both
Turn kindling, but overturn the law of physics.
For the fire consumes all but the arsonist. He lives
To preach another day. The promised beast
Of the Apocalypse left me unbeliever
Till a rambling cleric apportioned death on CNN --
Surely that devil's instrument! -- on Taslim Nazreem.
She wrote of an equalising God, androgynous
Who deals, ambidextrous, with the Left and Right.
...and a thirteenth for the merely superstitious.
This thirteenth canticle for you, and let
Ill-luck infest your dreams awhile, stress your fears.
Not one but both -- Friday and thirteen
Joined to press the entry of my world
Onto your calendar. Would I could boast
A triple six, a Grand Slam by Satan's reckoning --
I would have long submerged the world
In cosmic laughter!
* All earth is the home of deities
All earth is the home of deities
It was mortals who brought the gods to the world
All earth is home of deities
** Orunmila, Hand that apportions Fate
Second only to the Supreme Deity
He who swallows the potency of herbs
Immense One, who turns aside the day of death
We Wear the Mask
WE wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
rest of post here
PRAISE SONG FOR THE DAY: A POEM FOR BARACK OBAMA'S PRESIDENTIAL INAUGURATION
Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.
All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues.
Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.
Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum,
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.
A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.
We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.
We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what's on the other side.
I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges,
picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign,
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.
Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?
Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.
In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,
praise song for walking forward in that light.
The Chance to Change
today two Black girls will call the white house home
and a Black woman is first lady
and tonight will sleep next to her Black husband
in the master bedroom in the white house.
she will wake to plan the future
of all that china and crystal
when dignitaries dine in the coming years
she will descend the staircase in a gown.
today an African president is crowned in america.
he is the first and the forty-fourth
but today he is just
the number one will be
recorded for history books
though today is due to millions.
Fredrick Douglass and Shirley Chisholm
and today is so much Harold Washington
and the millions who organized and fought
to ensure the first was possible.
and today one in nine black men age
twenty to thirty four remains imprisoned
and today a Chicago mother will identify
her son's body as the moon wanes
in the night sky of the murder capital.
and today the body count escalates in Iraq
and Palestine and the war on drugs
in the same Southside streets today's
first learned from the ghost
hands of Ida B. Wells and Saul Alinsky,
where he met with folks with bodies
whose bodies are sick and tired from work
or looking and today the chance
of a Black boy graduating from a public school
that the first's secretary of education designate oversaw
and has an unconscionably low, failing grade.
and today is a celebration
and the Chicagoans who stand on the mall in DC
where slaves were once sold will think of brisk cool
as spring and the Virginians may frighten at the frost.
and today is so much Jackie Robinson
and Hank Aaron is yet to come
and the first is a promise, a finger forward
a new record, a Barak Obama in the whitened
ledger of american civics class, an implicit oath
of a number infinitely larger than one.
today is a celebration
and continuation in the hope of democracy
and as the first Black President in the United States
said in Grant Park
near a Great Lake
in the proudest and greatest
and most segregated of cities,
this is a chance to change
the open door, extended hand, rolled sleeves
the chance to fine tune and fix
dismantle and rebuild and completely reimagine
that the ancestors and angels who tonight dance
over the eyelids of two black girls sleeping safe
in the white house,
may the ancestors and angels parade too
in the shared rooms of every child
from the Westside to the West Bank
today is a day to dream
and ready for the work
If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accurséd lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O, kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
I, Too, Sing America
by Langston Hughes
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed--
I, too, am America.
Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh
Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don’t fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.
Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes (poets.org)
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!