Saturday, June 14, 2008

You may think we got over Victorian times. Think again

Studying, studying, studying... I stumbled upon Wikipedia's transcript of Rudyard Kipling's The White Man's Burden, which I've always found a gem of obtuseness. What I did not expect is that there were, soon enough, anti-imperialist replies to the poem. So much for "he received the Nobel Prize because at the time people didn't know better". Apparently, some people did know better, just not the Nobel prize committee. What annoys me the most, is how damn familiar this whole frame of thinking is, even today, just substitute the "ports" and "roads" with, er, "democracy"...

The White Man's Burden (1899)

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 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 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 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.

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.

The White Man's Burden - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(With apologies to Rudyard KiplingTake up the White Man’s burden.)

Send forth your sturdy kin,
And load them down with Bibles
And cannon-balls and gin.
Throw in a few diseases
To spread the tropic climes,
For there the healthy niggers
Are quite behind the times.
And don’t forget the factories.
On those benighted shores
They have no cheerful iron mills,
Nor eke department stores.
They never work twelve hours a day
And live in strange content,
Altho they never have to pay
A single sou of rent.
Take up the White Man’s burden,
And teach the Philippines
What interest and taxes are
And what a mortgage means.
Give them electrocution chairs,
And prisons, too, galore,
And if they seem inclined to kick,
Then spill their heathen gore.
They need our labor question, too,
And politics and fraud—
We’ve made a pretty mess at home,
Let’s make a mess abroad.
And let us ever humbly pray
The Lord of Hosts may deign
To stir our feeble memories
Lest we forget—the Maine.
Take up the White’s Man’s burden.
To you who thus succeedIn civilizing savage hordes,
They owe a debt, indeed;
Concessions, pensions, salaries,
And privilege and right—
With outstretched hands you raised to bless
Grab everything in sight.
Take up the White Man’s burden
And if you write in verse,
Flatter your nation’s vices
And strive to make them worse.
Then learn that if with pious words
You ornament each phrase,
In a world of canting hypocrites
This kind of business pays.

Source: Ernest Crosby, “The Real White Man’s Burden,” Swords and Ploughshares (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1902), 32–35.
Crosby on Kipling: A Parody of "The White Man's Burden"

The Brown Man's Burden,
By Henry Labouchère

Truth (London); reprinted in Literary Digest 18 (Feb. 25, 1899).
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.
The Brown Man's Burden, by Henry Labouchere

Ps. Heart of Darkness was written exactly on the same year than Kipling's poem.
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