Posted on: September 5, 2021 Posted by: Stuti Shiva Comments: 2

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Original woodcut illustration for The Just So story ‘The Elephant’s Child’ by Rudyard Kipling

Much has been written about Kipling Sahib and in my previous blog I explore the wonderlust that always had a hold on him.

‘I’ve got the go- fever, like that man in Kipling’s book.’

A Gentleman of Leisure, P.G.Wodehouse

Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay on the 30th December, 1865 in one of the most cosmopolitan city of the Eastern world, and it was there and in its neighbourhood that the first three years of the boy’s life were spent.

Being a child of sensitive nature and active disposition, such as this boy possessed, greatly influenced his imagination.

Kipling began writing poetry, or ‘verse’ as he was always to call it, as a young child.

While a schoolboy he contributed poems regularly to the school magazine which he also edited.

In 1881, when he was sixteen years old and still at school, his parents in India arranged, without consulting him, for the publication of a collection of his poems which they called Schoolboy Lyrics.

During the seven years he spent working for the Gazette, and for its sister paper the Pioneer in Allahabad, he wrote and published, in addition to his day-by-day journalism, an enormous number of stories and poems.

Some of his Best Poems

If –
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

If by Rudyard Kipling

Gunga Din By Rudyard Kipling. Image Courtesy Pinterest

One of Kipling’s best-known poems, ‘Gunga Din’ was first published in 1890 and focuses on an Indian water-bearer who saves the speaker’s life (the speaker being a British soldier serving in India) and is thus ‘a better man than I am’, as the resounding close of the poem has it. ‘Din’, by the way, should probably be pronounced ‘deen’, given the words Kipling rhymes the name with…

Gunga Din

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.
’E was ‘Din! Din! Din!
You limpin’ lump o’ brick-dust, Gunga Din!

Hi! Slippy hitherao!
Water, get it! Panee lao,
You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.’
The uniform ’e wore
Was nothin’ much before,

An’ rather less than ’arf o’ that be’ind,
For a piece o’ twisty rag
An’ a goatskin water-bag

“Was all the field-equipment ’e could find.
When the sweatin’ troop-train lay

In a sidin’ through the day,
Where the ’eat would make your bloomin’ eyebrows crawl,
We shouted ‘Harry By!’
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped ’im ’cause ’e couldn’t serve us all.

It was ‘Din! Din! Din!
You ’eathen, where the mischief ’ave you been?
You put some juldee in it
Or I’ll marrow you this minute
If you don’t fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!

“E would dot an’ carry one
Till the longest day was done;
An’ ’e didn’t seem to know the use o’ fear.
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin’ nut,

’E’d be waitin’ fifty paces right flank rear.
With ’is mussick on ’is back,
’E would skip with our attack,
An’ watch us till the bugles made ‘Retire,’
An’ for all ’is dirty ’ide

’E was white, clear white, inside
When ’e went to tend the wounded under fire!
It was ‘Din! Din! Din!’
With the bullets kickin’ dust-spots on the green.
When the cartridges ran out,

You could hear the front-ranks shout,
‘Hi! ammunition-mules an’ Gunga Din!’
I shan’t forgit the night
When I dropped be’ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should ’a’ been.

I was chokin’ mad with thirst,
An’ the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin’, gruntin’ Gunga Din.
‘E lifted up my ’ead,
An’ ’e plugged me where I bled,

An’ ’e guv me ’arf-a-pint o’ water green.
It was crawlin’ an’ it stunk,
But of all the drinks I’ve drunk,

“It was ‘Din! Din! Din!’
With the bullets kickin’ dust-spots on the green.
When the cartridges ran out,

You could hear the front-ranks shout,
‘Hi! ammunition-mules an’ Gunga Din!’
I shan’t forgit the night
When I dropped be’ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should ’a’ been.

I was chokin’ mad with thirst,
An’ the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin’, gruntin’ Gunga Din.
‘E lifted up my ’ead,
An’ ’e plugged me where I bled,

An’ ’e guv me ’arf-a-pint o’ water green.
It was crawlin’ an’ it stunk,
But of all the drinks I’ve drunk,
I’m gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.
It was ‘Din! Din! Din!

’Ere’s a beggar with a bullet through ’is spleen;
’E’s chawin’ up the ground,
An’ ’e’s kickin’ all around:
For Gawd’s sake git the water, Gunga Din!’
’E carried me away

To where a dooli lay,
An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean.
’E put me safe inside,

“An’ just before ’e died,
‘I ’ope you liked your drink,’ sez Gunga Din.

So I’ll meet ’im later on
At the place where ’e is gone
Where it’s always double drills an’ no canteen.
‘E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,

An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,

You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

Pussy can sit by the fire and sing’

Pussy can sit by the fire and sing,
Pussy can climb a tree,
Or play with a silly old cork and string
To ’muse herself, not me.

But I like Binkie my dog, because
He knows how to behave;
So, Binkie’s the same as the First Friend was,
And I am the Man in the Cave!
Pussy will play Man Friday till

It’s time to wet her paw
And make her walk on the window-sill
(For the footprint Crusoe saw);
Then she fluffles her tail and mews,
And scratches and won’t attend.

But Binkie will play whatever I choose,

“And he is my true First Friend!
Pussy will rub my knees with her head
Pretending she loves me hard;
But the very minute I go to my bed

Pussy runs out in the yard,
And there she stays till the morning-light;
So I know it is only pretend.
But Binkie, he snores at my feet all night,
And he is my Firstest Friend!

Epitaphs of the War

1914-18“equality of sacrifice” 

Published in 1919, one year after the end of the First World War, these poems were inspired by The Greek Anthology, a collection of short anonymous poems (including many epitaphs designed for memorial inscriptions on tombs) dating as far back as the sixth century BC.

One of the most oft-quoted poems from Kipling’s ‘Epitaphs’ is ‘Common Form’: ‘If any question why we died, / Tell them, because our fathers lied.’

A. “I was a Have.”   B. “I was a ‘have-not.’” 
(Together). “What hast thou given which I gave not?” 

A servant 

We were together since the War began. 
He was my servant—and the better man.

A son 

My son was killed while laughing at some jest. I would I knew 
What it was, and it might serve me in a time when jests are few.

An only son 

I have slain none except my Mother. She 
(Blessing her slayer) died of grief for me.


Pity not!    The Army gave 
Freedom to a timid slave: 
In which Freedom did he find 
Strength of body, will, and mind: 
By which strength he came to prove 
Mirth, Companionship, and Love: 
For which Love to Death he went: 
In which Death he lies content.

The wonder 

Body and Spirit I surrendered whole 
To harsh Instructors—and received a soul . . . 
If mortal man could change me through and through 
From all I was—what may The God not do?

Hindu sepoy in France 

This man in his own country prayed we know not to what Powers. 
We pray Them to reward him for his bravery in ours.

The coward 

I could not look on Death, which being known, 
Men led me to him, blindfold and alone.


My name, my speech, my self I had forgot. 
My wife and children came—I knew them not. 
I died.    My Mother followed.    At her call 
And on her bosom I remembered all.

A grave near Cairo 

Gods of the Nile, should this stout fellow here 
Get out—get out!    He knows not shame nor fear.

pelicans in the wilderness

A Grave near Halfa

The blown sand heaps on me, that none may learn 
    Where I am laid for whom my children grieve . . . 
O wings that beat at dawning, ye return 
    Out of the desert to your young at eve!

 Kipling’s poem ‘The Way through the Woods’ are laden with symbolism: does this woodland road suggest a link to our own past (and our childhood), or to a collective past, which can now barely be revisited? Part of the poem’s power lies in its ambiguity.

The Way through the Woods

They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know

There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees

That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.
Yet, if you enter the woods

Of a summer evening late,

When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,

And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods …

But there is no road through the woods!

His literary gifts came to him by inheritance from both his father and mother, and they were nurtured and cultivated in the circle of relatives and family friends with whom his holidays were spent.

A writer who could entertain children and adults alike with such books as The Jungle BookPlain Tales from the HillsThe Just So StoriesPuck of Pook’s Hill, and countless others.

But as well as being a prolific author of fiction, Rudyard Kipling was also a hugely popular poet.

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