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"The 'White Man's Burden': Uncle Sam to Kipling"

"Droch" was the pen name of Robert Bridges, a critic and editor at Scribner's and Life magazines and a friend to both Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. In this response to Rudyard Kipling's "The White Man's Burden," he opens by sarcastically thanking Kipling for "showing us the way," and goes on to explain why some Americans may not be enthusiastic about the prospect of an empire, making particular reference to the experience of the Civil War. While not as strongly anti-imperialist as other works of the time, Bridges nonetheless concludes that "We've got troubles of our own/Enough to keep us busy" without the imperial adventure in the Philippines and elsewhere.

The "White Man's Burden": Uncle Sam to Kipling

"Take up the White Man's burden!

Have done with childish days." -- R. K.

 

Oh, thank you, Mr. Kipling,
For showing us the way
To buckle down to business
And end our "childish day."
We know we're young and frisky
And haven't too much sense --
At least, not in the measure
We'll have a few years hence.

Now, this same "White Man's burden"
You're asking us to tote
Is not so unfamiliar
As you're inclined to note.
We freed three million negroes,
Their babies and their wives;
It cost a billion dollars,
And near a million lives!

And while we were a-fighting
In all those "thankless years"
We did not get much helping --
Well, not from English "peers."
And so -- with best intentions --
We're not exactly wild
To free the Filipino,
"Half devil and half child."

Then thank you, Mr. Kipling,
Though not disposed to groan
About the White Man's Burden,
We've troubles of our own;
Enough to keep us busy
When English friends enquire,
"Why don't you use your talons?
There are chestnuts in the fire!" 

Source | "Droch" (Robert Bridges), "The 'White Man's Burden': Uncle Sam to Kipling," Life 33, 16 February 1899.
Creator | Robert Bridges
Item Type | Fiction/Poetry
Cite This document | Robert Bridges, “"The 'White Man's Burden': Uncle Sam to Kipling",” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed November 14, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/750.

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