Study Guide

The White Man's Burden Stanza 5

By Rudyard Kipling

Stanza 5

Lines 33-36

Take up the White Man's burden--
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard--

  • You know what? Our speaker is really not selling anyone on taking up this White Man's burden. Let's recap, shall we? So far we just have a lot of hard work and no reward. But wait a minute. We're in luck. The White Man does get a reward here... blame and hate. Well, then, in that case we're imaging white men rushing from everywhere to sign up.
  • It's telling that the speaker describes the blame as coming from "those ye better." Here, he states point blank that the White Man is better than the native people he's conquering (or helping, if you take our speaker's word for it). There's really no other way around this racially unbalanced view.
  • The locals are also "guard[ed]" by the White Man, which leads us to wonder just who needs protection from whom in this scenario.

Lines 37-40

The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?"

  • Our hard-working White Man will also earn "The cry" of those he's conquering. Of course, in these lines he's not seen as conquering at all.
  • He's actually helping ("humour[ing]") these people ("hosts") to a new (read: European) way of life.
  • Not that they'll appreciate that, says our speaker. He makes an allusion to the Biblical story of the Jews being freed from slavery in Egypt. The locals, he says, will not want to be delivered from their slavery ("bondage"), though. The way of life that they cling to is, according to the speaker, a kind of night—a metaphorical darkness of ignorance.
  • What these locals might have seen as their normal way of life is nothing more than a form of slavery to our speaker.