Mandalay by Rudyard Kipling

Mandalay
1890

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay! “
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay ?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!
‘Er petticoat was yaller an’ ‘er little cap was green,
An’ ‘er name was Supi-yaw-lat – jes’ the same as Theebaw’s Queen,
An’ I seed her first a-smokin’ of a whackin’ white cheroot,
An’ a-wastin’ Christian kisses on an ‘eathen idol’s foot:
Bloomin’ idol made o’ mud
Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd
Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed ‘er where she stud!
On the road to Mandalay…

When the mist was on the rice-fields an’ the sun was droppin’ slow,
She’d git ‘er little banjo an’ she’d sing “Kulla-lo-lo!
With ‘er arm upon my shoulder an’ ‘er cheek agin my cheek
We useter watch the steamers an’ the hathis pilin’ teak.
Elephints a-pilin’ teak
In the sludgy, squdgy creek,
Where the silence ‘ung that ‘eavy you was ‘arf afraid to speak!
On the road to Mandalay…

But that’s all shove be’ind me – long ago an’ fur away
An’ there ain’t no ‘busses runnin’ from the Bank to Mandalay;
An’ I’m learnin’ ‘ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
“If you’ve ‘eard the East a-callin’, you won’t never ‘eed naught else.”
No! you won’t ‘eed nothin’ else
But them spicy garlic smells,
An’ the sunshine an’ the palm-trees an’ the tinkly temple-bells;
On the road to Mandalay…

I am sick o’ wastin’ leather on these gritty pavin’-stones,
An’ the blasted English drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;
Tho’ I walks with fifty ‘ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,
An’ they talks a lot o’ lovin’, but wot do they understand?
Beefy face an’ grubby ‘and –
Law! wot do they understand?
I’ve a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!
On the road to Mandalay…

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren’t no Ten Commandments an’ a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin’, an’ it’s there that I would be
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea;
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay,
With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!
O the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay !

Rudyard Kipling
Born: 30 December 1865, Mumbai, India
Nationality: English
Died: 18 January 1936, London, England

Kipling was a journalist, poet, short-story writer, and novelist. Kipling was born in India which inspired much of his work, including The Jungle Book and Kim

One thought on “Mandalay by Rudyard Kipling

  1. Thank you for sharing this poem of Kipling’s. It is one of those poems which proves that poetry can appeal to everyone/it does not need to be complex to be construed as a poem.

    I find the poem interesting. Kipling is often viewed as an “imperialist” and a “racist”. Poems such as his “The Stranger” can certainly be viewed as “racist”. However the “Road to Mandalay” shows a very different side to Kipling. It also goes without saying that Kipling was a product of his time and as such we should, in my view be extremely careful before applying 21st century conceptions of morality to him.

    I am not sure whether you are familiar with George Orwell’s response to Kipling’s poem:

    “When I was young and had no sense
    In far-off Mandalay
    I lost my heart to a Burmese girl
    As lovely as the day.
    Her skin was gold, her hair was jet,
    Her teeth were ivory;
    I said ‘For twenty silver pieces,
    Maiden, sleep with me.’
    She looked at me, so pure, so sad,
    The loveliest thing alive,
    And in her lisping, virgin voice,
    Stood out for twenty-five.”

    Best wishes. Kevin

    Liked by 1 person

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