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Poetry Analysis - The White Man's Burden

            Rudyard Kipling, one of the most famous poets of the Victorian age, wrote The White Man's Burden in 1899, at 34 years of age. Kipling was born and raised in the English colony of Bombay, India, a place he later recalled in his memoirs: "My first impression is of daybreak, light and color and golden and purple fruits at the level of my shoulder" (Kipling qtd. in "The Poetry Foundation," 2014). As a white child, raised in one of England's far flung colonies, the young Kipling began to adopt a "Euro-centric" perspective of the world, in which Europe was seen as the seat of power and cultural superiority, while less advanced societies were labeled as poor and inferior. The term "white man's burden" came into existence during the Spanish-American war, and came to represent the magnanimous and charitable attitude of white society toward "less-civilized" cultures, which were seen as the economic burden of the white race ("History Matters," N.D., para. 1). After the war, Kipling wrote his famous poem as a sort of message to the United States, urging America to take up the burden of its newly-acquired Philippines, but also warning the powerful nation not to expect a warm or receptive welcome from the Filipino people, if and when it chose to impose white values upon them. .
             The White Man's Burden begins "Take up the White Man's burden – Send forth the best ye breed" (Kipling, 1899, 1-2). True to Euro-centric form, Kipling's first two lines scream of racism, as the poet asserts the genetic superiority of white people, telling his American cousins to send in their best to serve the "Half devil and half child" (7). This ludicrous description was assigned to those of other races, who were viewed as the burden of the white man. In the second stanza of the poem, Kipling proceeds to construct his argument that white society is responsible for the welfare of those less fortunate, "To veil the threat of terror – And check the show of pride" (11-12).

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