Introduction by Kingsley Amis
"Rudyard Kipling was uniquely equipped to portray life in India under the British Empire in all its abundant variety. He was born there, in Bombay, and was brought up largely by native servants. From the age of seventeen he was a newspaper reporter, traveling all over the subcontinent and talking with people of every nation, culture, religion, and status. Among these were the ordinary enlisted men of the British army, whom he came to know and to understand as no one else ever did. He sympathized with their lot and warmed to them, too, coarse and ignorant though they generally were, awkward to handle like soldiers anywhere but capable of loyalty, unselfishness, compassion, and even respect for individuals of other races—not very common a hundred years ago.
"Kipling celebrated the qualities of the British soldier in his Barrack-Room Ballads, first published in 1890 when the author was still only twenty-four years old, in style and subject matter and achievement unparalleled in English. They were soon wildly popular, not only in print but also as recited and sung in the Victorian music halls and at smoking concerts. Among them, "Gunga Din" was always a favorite, and some of its shrases, notably the last line, are still current today. The story is based on a then famous incident of the ferocious Indian Mutiny of 1857, and Gunga Din himself was modeled on a heroic water-carrier at the siege of Delhi in that year."
Gunga Din, by Rudyard Kipling
You may talk o’ gin and beer
Now in Injia’s sunny clime,
He was "Din! Din! Din!"
The uniform ‘e wore
"When the sweatin’ troop-train lay
It was "Din! Din! Din!
"E would dot an’ carry one
If we charged or broke or cut,
"It was "Din! Din! Din!"
I shan’t forget the night
It was Din! Din ! Din!
‘E carried me away
So I’ll meet ‘im later on
"Din! Din! Din!
bhisti: water carrier
Panee lao: Bring water swiftly!
"Harry By: Oh Brother!
sidin’: a side track of a rail line
‘eathen: heathen; refers to the fact that Gunga Din is not a Christian
Ammunition-mules: vehicles to carry ammunition
dooli: stretcher/litter to carry the wounded
flay: to strike or belittle with words
Additional information about Rudyard Kipling can be found on the Kipling Socieity’s homepage: www.kipling.org/uk/kip_fra.htm
Additional information on the British Empire in India and an interesting debate on the positive effects of colonialism can be found at: www.activehistory.co.uk/3rds/India/worksheet.htm