“The White Man’s Burden” is a poem written by the British writer and poet Rudyard Kipling. In 1899, the poem was published in the magazine called McClure’s. Rudyard Kipling composed the poem initially for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee but decided to change the poem to match the American colonisation of the Philippines. The poem deals with issues such as racial oppression and the white man’s racial primacy. Kipling’s poem is a lyrical depiction of the white man’s burden during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The poem is composed of seven stanzas each consisting of eight verses. The rhyme scheme is, “A – B – C – B – D – E – F – E”. In other words, the poem rhymes with every second and sixth verse. Thus, it has a traditional rhyme scheme. In each line, there are three iambs and the rhythm is, “u–u– u–“. Each verse consists of six syllables, which means that the same rhythm occurs throughout the whole poem. The rhythm is regular and it creates the sense of soldiers marching off to war.
“The White Man’s Burden” is constructed of different poetic devices that give the poem a certain effect on the reader. For instance, Kipling makes use of stylistic devices such as the imperative form, alliteration, and imagery. Of these, the most significant is the usage of the imperative form. The imperative form marks the entire poem. For example, “Take up the White Man’s Burden” (p. 262, l. 1), “Go make them with your living” (p. 262, l. 34), and “And reap his old reward;” (p. 263, l. 2). The use of the imperative form provides the effect as if the speaker gives orders to the white man.
Another poetic device is the usage of alliteration that makes the poem flow more smoothly. For instance, “The silent, sullen peoples” (p. 263, l. 16) and “Fill full the mouth of Famine” (p. 262, l. 21). The alliterations draw the reader’s attention in the shape of sound repetition and set a serious tone/mode to the poem by using words as “silent, sullen” and “Famine”.
“[…] Famine” (p. 262, l. 218) is also a personification of the colonised peoples. The imagery explains how the hungry and sick peoples need help. Furthermore, the imagery clarifies the white man’s burden to take responsibility and to civilise the rest of the world.
Moreover, the poem benefits of the usage of irony as a stylistic device. For instance, there is a quite ironic tone in stanza 5, “And reap his old reward: / The blame of those ye better, / The hate of those ye guard -” (p. 263, ll. 2-4). The irony finds expression in the reward as ingratitude and abhorrence. For example, the previous example says, “The hate of those ye guard”, meaning that the white man only receives hatred from the colonised peoples. The effect of all these poetic devices is that it becomes easier to understand what the white man’s burden is from his perspective.
“The White Man’s Burden” takes themes such as racial oppression and the white man’s superiority. The theme of racial oppression is evident in how the white man...