Rudyard Kipling, Texts & Commentary

Digital Texts
Fiction ... Soldiers Three
Kim [Selection]
Kim [Full Text]
Poetry ... “White Man’s Burden”
“The English Way”
“Ulster 1913”

See further selections and commentary in RICORSO Classroom, “Teaching & Learning Resources”, infra.

Tom Paulin
Carla King

Soldiers Three (1911)

Bibliographical details: Soldiers Three: Setting Forth Certain Passages in the Lives and Adventures of Privates Terence Mulvaney, Stanley Ortheris, and John Learoyd, with other Stories by Rydyard Kipling with a critical Introduction by Henry James [The English Library] (Leipzig: E. A Brockhaus 1911), 273pp. [part of Kipling series]:
Henry James, Preface:

It is part of the satisfaction the author gives us that he can make us speculate as to whether he will be able to complete his picture altogether (this is as far as we presume to go in meddling with the question of the future) without bringing in the complicated soul. [...]

Meanwhile, at any rate, we have Mulvaney, and Mulvaney is tolerably complicated. He is a six-foot saturated Irish private, but he is a considerable pledge of more to come. Hasn’t he, for that matter, the tongue of a hoarse syren, and hasn’t be also mysteries and infinitudes almost Carlylese? Since I am speaking of him I may as well say [x] that he has probably led captive those of Mr. Kipling’s readers who have most given up resistance. He is a piece of protraiture of the largest, vividest kind, growing and growing on the painter’s hands without every out-growing them. I can’t help regarding him, in a certain sense, as Mr. Kipling’s tutelary deity - a landmark of the direction in which it is open to him to look the furthest. If the author will only go as far in this direction as Mulvaney is capable of taking him ( and the inimitable Irishman is, like Voltaire’s Habbakkuk, capable de tout), he may still discover and treasure and find a reward for the services of the the winner of Dinah Shadd. I hasten to add that the truly appreciative reader should surely have no quarrel with primitive element in Mr. Kipling’s subject-matter, or with what, for want of a better name, I may call his love of low life. What is this but an essential part of his freshness [cf., ‘after tasting many essences we find freshness the sweetest of all’, [p.i.]. And for what part of his freshness are we exactly more thankful than for just this smart jostle he gives the old superstition that the amiability of a storyteller is the amiability of the [xi] people he represents-that their vulgarity, or depravity, or gentility, or fatuity are tantamount to the same qualities in the painter itself? A blow from which it will not easily recover is dealt to this infantine philosophy by Mr. Howells when, with the most distinguished dexterity and all the detachment of a master, he handles some of the clumiest, crudest, most human things in life - answering surely thereby the playgoers in the sixpenny gallery who howl at the representative of the villain when he comes before the curtain.

Nothing is more refreshing than this active, disinterested sense of the real; it is doubtless the quality for the want of which much of our English and American fiction has turned so wofully stale. We are ridden by the old conventionalities of types and small properties of observance - by the foolish baby-formula (to put it sketchily) of the picture and the subject. Mr. Kipling has the air of being disposed to lift the whole business off the nursery carpet and of being perhaps even more able than he is disposed. One must hasten of course to parenthesise that [xii] there is not, intrinsically, a bit more luminosity in treating of low life and of primitive man than of those whom civilisation has kneaded to a finer paste: the only luminosity in either case is the intelligence with which the thing is done. But it so happens that, among ourselves, the frank, capable outlook, when turned upon the vulgar majority, the coarse, receding edges of the social perspective, borrows a charm from being new; such a charm as, for instance, repetition has already despoiled it of among the French - the hapless French who pay the penalty as well as enjoy the glow of living intellectually so much faster than we. It is the most inexorable part of our fate that we grow tired of everything, and of course in due time we may grow tired even of what explorers shall come back to tell us about the great grimy condition or, with unprecedented items and details, about the grey middle state which darkens into it. But the explorers, bless them! may have a long day before that; it is early to trouble about reactions, so we must give them every presumption [...].

His Indian impressions divide themselves into three groups, one of which, I think, very much outshines the others. First to be mentioned are the tales of native life, curious glimpses of custom and superstition, not beholden of the many, for which the author has a remarkable flair. Then comes the social, the Anglo-Indian episode, the study of administrative and military types and of the wonderful rattling, riding ladies who, at Simla and more desperate stations, look out for husbands and lovers; often, it would seem, the husbands and lovers of others. The most brilliant group is devoted wholly to the common [xv] soldier, and of this series it appears to me too much good is hardly to be said. Here Mr. Kipling, with all his off-handness, is a master; for we are not held so much by the greater or less oddity of the particular yarn-sometimes it is scarcely a yarn at all but something much less artificial - as by the robust attitude of the narrator, who never arranges or glosses or falsifies, but makes straight for the common and the characteristic. I have mentioned the great esteem in which I hold Mulvaney - surely a charming man and one qualified to adorn a higher sphere. Mulvaney is a creature to be proud of, and his two comrades stand as firm on their legs. In spite of Mulvaney’s social possibilities they are all three finished brutes; but it is precisely in the finish that we delight. Whatever Mr. Kipling may related about them forever will encounter readers equally facinated and unable fully to justify their faith. (p.xvi)

Ortheris-landed at last in the little ‘stuffed bird shop’ for which soul longed; Learoyd-back again in the smoky, stone-ribbed North, amid the clang of the Bradford looms; Mulvaney, grizzled, tender, and very wise Ulysses-judge if I have forgotten the old days in the Trap! [15]

From “Black Jack“ [a story in which Mulvany foils an attempt to assassinate an NCO and to lay the blame on himself]: ‘The Tyrone was recruited in the ould days. A draf’ from Connemara-a draf’ from Portsmouth-a draf’ from Kerry, an’ that was a blazin’ bad draf’-here, there and iverywhere-but the large av them was Oirish-Black Oirish. Now there are Oirish an’ Oirish. The good are good as the best, but the [98] bad are wurrst than the wurrst. ’Tis this way. They clog together in pieces as fast as thieves, an’ no wan know fwhat they will do till wan turns informer, an’ the gang is bruk. But ut begins again, a day later, meetin’ in holes an’ corners an’ swearin’ bloody oaths an’ shtickin’ a man in the back an’ running away, an’ thin waitin’ for the blood-money on the reward papers-to see if ut’s worth enough. Those are the Black Oirish, an’ ’tis they that bring disghrace upon the name av Oireland, an’ them I wud kill-as I nearly killed wan wanst.’ (pp.98-99.)

Kim (1901): Indian veteran and loyalist: ‘A madness ate into all the Army, and they turned against their officers. That was the first evil, but not past remedy if they had then held their hands. But they chose to kill the Sahib’s wives and children. Then came the Sahibs from over the sea and called them to strict account.’ (Kim, Doubleday, Doran Edn., 1941; p.178; quoted in Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism, 1993, p.178.) Also [Old Widow on seeing District Superintendent of Police ride by]: ‘These be the sort to oversee justice. They know the land and the customs of the land. The others, all new from Europe, suckled by white women and learning our tongue from books, are worse than the pestilence. They do harm to Kings.’ (Ibid., p.271; Said, op. cit., p.179.)

Take up the White Man’s Burden
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.

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 mark 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, (2)
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 English Way” (1929)
After the fight at Otterburn,
Before the ravens came,
The Witch-wife rode across the fern
And spoke Earl Percy’s name.

“Stand up-stand up, Northumberland!
I bid you answer true,
If England’s King has under his hand
A Captain as good as you?”

Then up and spake the dead Percy -
Oh, but his wound was sore!
“Five hundred Captains as good”, said he,
i“And I trow five hundred more.

“But I pray you by the lifting skies,
And the young wind over the grass,
That you take your eyes from off my eyes,
And let my spirit pass.“

“Stand up-stand up, Northumberland!
I charge you answer true,
If ever you dealt in steel and brand,
How went the fray with you?“

“Hither and yon,“ the Percy said;
“As every fight must go;
For some they fought and some they fled,
And some struck ne’er a blow.

“But I pray you by the breaking skies,
And the first call from the nest,
That you turn your eyes away from my eyes,
And let me to my rest.“

“Stand up-stand up, Northumberland!
I will that you answer true,
If you and your men were quick again,
How would it be with you?“

“Oh, we would speak of hawk and hound,
And the red deer where they rove,
And the merry foxes the country round,
And the maidens that we love.

“We would not speak of steel or steed,
Except to grudge the cost;
And he that had done the doughtiest deed
Would mock himself the most.

“But I pray you by my keep and tower,
And the tables in my hall,
And I pray you by my lady’s bower
(Ah, bitterest of all!)

“That you lift your eyes from outen my eyes,
Your hand from off my breast,
And cover my face from the red sun-rise,
And loose me to my rest!”

She has taken her eyes from out of his eyes-
Her palm from off his breast,
And covered his face from the red sun-rise,
And loosed him to his rest.

“Sleep you, or wake, Northumberland -
You shall not speak again,
And the word you have said ’twixt quick and dead
I lay on Englishmen.

“So long as Severn runs to West
Or Humber to the East,
That they who bore themselves the best
Shall count themselves the least.

“While there is fighting at the ford,
Or flood along the Tweed,
That they shall choose the lesser word
To cloke the greater deed.

“After the quarry and the kill-
The fair fight and the fame-
With an ill face and an ill grace
Shall they rehearse the same.

“Greater the deed, greater the need
Lightly to laugh it away,

“Shall be the mark of the English breed
Until the Judgment Day!”

God of our fathers, known of old -
Lord of our far-flung battle-line -
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine -
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies -
The captains and the kings depart -
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!

Far-call’d our navies melt away -
On dune and headland sinks the fire -
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe -
Such boasting as the Gentiles use
Or lesser breeds without the Law -
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard -
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And guarding calls not Thee to guard -
For frantic boast and foolish word,
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

Ulster 1912”:

The dark eleventh hour
Draws on and sees us sold
To every evil power
We fought against of old.

Rebellion, rapine, hate,
Oppression, wrong and greed
Are loosed to rule our fate
By England’s act and deed.

Before an Empire’s eyes
The traitor claims his price,
What need of further lies
We are the sacrifice.


What answer from the North?
One Law, one Land, one Throne
If England drive us forth
We shall not fall alone.
(The Years Between, 1919, pp.10-12.)

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Tom Paulin, review of David Gilmour, The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling (London: John Murray), 362pp., in Times Literary Supplement (8 March 2002.)
Paulin cites Ashis Nandy, The Intimate Enemy: The Loss and Recovery of Self under Colonialism, remarking that Lord Dufferin liked Kipling’s mother and used to drop in for tea at Simla.

Kipling ‘believed the Irish Free State was the precursor of the “Free States of Evil” throughout the Empire, and described Irish nationalism fatuously as ‘Bolshevism in Erse’. He broke with Beaverbrook over Ireland, and became increasingly isolated, though he was a close friend of George V and was for many years on good term with his cousin Stanley Baldwin, who first became Prime Minister in 1923.’


‘In his masterpiece, Kim, he uses a series of contradictions to construct his endearing central character, Kimball O’Hara, who is variously described as “English”, a “poor white of the very poorest”, who is also Irish as well as being “burned black as any native”. Kim’s father was an Irish colour sergeant. The “half-caste” woman - Kipling’s phrase - who looks after Kim claims she is the sister of Kim’s mother, but Kipling says “his mother had been nursemaid in a Colonel’s regiment and married Kimball O’Hara”. This does not prove that Kim is white, and it is curious that Kipling should raise the idea of Kim’s being of mixed race only to dispel it. In an odd non-sequitur, we are told that the lama was Kim’s “trove, and he purposed to take possession. Kim’s mother had been Irish too”.

Paulin goes on: ‘Kipling, Gilmour shows, did not like anyone drawing attention to the Celtic side of his ancestry (he had Scottish Jacobite and Ulster ancestors on his mother’s side), but he is presenting Kim as belonging to the “other” in a favourable manner here. He frequently uses racial and cultural stereotypes, viz. - Kim hates cobras because no training can quench the white man’s horror [… &c.], but sits cross legged, and squats as only natives can, while at one point ‘the “Irish” and the “Oriental” in his soul is “tickled”.’

Paulin adds: ‘Kim’s Irishness is a questionable form of whiteness, and Kipling may have heard the theory that the Irish are descended from primeval Dravidian Indians’. He goes on: ‘The point Kipling is making or exploring is that these identities are not polar opposites. Kim has a shifting, ambiguous, protean identity - an identity that expresses so much that is essential to the experience of the colonised, a cunning personality which often takes on or mirrors the identity of the coloniser. Kim’s complexity perhaps expresses Kipling’s impatience with what we now term cultural essentialism, and with the racist ideology that, on another level of mind, he held to.’

Paulin ends by reminding us that verses from Kipling’s “Ulster 1912” were painted on a placard outside Harland and Wolff in 1985. (p.4.)

Carla King, reviewing Kaori Nagai, Empire of Analogies: Kipling, India and Ireland (2006) , in Books Ireland (March 2007), pp.49-50, writes: ‘Nagai argues that Indo-Irish analogies became important to Kipling in representing imperial integrity. in the characters of Kim (who is half-Irish) and Terence Mulvaney, an Irish soldier in India, Kipling is consciously linking Britain’s Irish and Indian colonial projects: Kim as “the personification of the imperial connection between India and lreland” and Mulvaney as “a powerful counter-representation to the Irish nationalist voices which were raised against the Empire”. Yet in places, the hero, Mulvaney, is portrayed as having a Fenian past, although elsewhere Kipling rewrites this aspect of his former life. The issue of Kim’s Irishness has attracted a good deal of recent treatment. It is discussed in detail in Nagai’s book; it is also the subject of a chapter by Nessa Cronin, on ‘Monstrous hybridity: Kim of the “Eye-rishti” and the Survey of India’, in Ireland and India and of a recent article by Kathleen Costello-Sullivan, called ‘Who is Kim? Rudyard Kipling and the haunting of the colonial imagination’ in Oonagh Walsh ed., lreland Abroad: Politics and Professions in the Nineteenth [49] Century. Why should it matter that Kim was half Irish? Perhaps because, as Kaori Nagai points out, Kipling was ... the historian of those now forgotten Irish who were loyal to the Empire, articulating in his writing a dream of empire, “almost a masterful dream-work of condensation, with its colonies, different from each other in history, culture and language, threaded together into one vision, solely by virtue of their belonging to the Empire”. At the centre of this dream is Kim “an imperial boy who is at once Irish and Indian”, a metaphor for imperial unity. The dream was a chimera, masking the violence and abuses of the empire, but Kipling, in his day and after, was its most effective propagandist.’

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