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
When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere,
And you’re sent to penny-fights and Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ bots of ‘im that’s got it.

Now in Injia’s sunny clime,
Where I sued to spend my time
A-servin of ‘Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din

He was "Din! Din! Din!"
"You limpin’ lump o’ brick-dust, Gunga Din!
"Hi! Slippy hitherao!
"Water, get it ! Panee lao"
"You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din."

The uniform ‘e wore
Was nothin’ much before,
An’ rather less than ‘arf o’ that be’ind,
For a piece o’ twisty rag
An’ a goatskin water-gag
Was all the field-equipment ‘e could find.

"When the sweatin’ troop-train lay
In a sidin’ through the day,
Where the ‘eat would make your bloomin’ eyebrows crawl,
We shouted "Harry By!"
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped ‘im ‘cause’e couldn’t’ serve us all.

It was "Din! Din! Din!
"You ‘eathen, where the mischief ‘ave you been?
"You put some juldee in it,
"Or I’ll marrow you this minute
"If you don’t fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!"

"E would dot an’ carry one
Till the longest day was done,
An’ ‘e didn’t seem to know the use o’ fear.

If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin’ nut,
‘E’d be waitin’ fifty paces right flank rear.
With ‘is mussick on ‘is back,
‘E would skip with our attack,
An’ watch us till the bugles made "Retire."
An’ for all ‘is dirty ‘ide
‘E was white, clear white, inside
When ‘e went to tend the woulded under fire!

"It was "Din! Din! Din!"
With the bullets kickin’ dust spots on the green.
When the cartridges ran out,
You could hear the front-files shout,
"Hi! Ammunition-mules an’ Gunga Din!"

I shan’t forget the night
When I dropped be’ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should ‘a" been.
I was chokin’ mad with thirst,
An the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin’ gruntin’ Gunga Din.
"E lifted up my ‘ead,
An’ he plugged me where I bled,
An’ ‘e guv me ‘arf-a-pint o’ water-green:
It was crawlin’ and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I’ve drunk,
I’m gratefullest to one from Gunga Din

It was Din! Din ! Din!
"’Ere’s a beggar with a bullet through ‘is spleen;
"’E’s chawin’ up the ground,
"An ‘e’s kickin’ all around:
"For Gawd’s sake git the water, Gunga Din!"

‘E carried me away
To where a dooli lay
An’ a bullet come an’ drilled the beggar clean.
‘E put me safe inside,
An’ just before ‘e died,
"I’ope you liked your drink," sez Gunga Din.

So I’ll meet ‘im later on
In the place where ‘e is gone—
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen;
‘E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drinks to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!

"Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Tho’ I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the living’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga 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

juldee: quickness

marrow: hit

mussick: water-skin

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:

Additional information on the British Empire in India and an interesting debate on the positive effects of colonialism can be found at: