Gunga Din

Gunga Din

By Rudyard Kipling

You may talk o’ gin and beer
When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere,
An’ you’re sent to penny-fights an’ Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water,
An’ you’ll lick the bloomin’ boots of ‘im that’s got it.
Now in Injia’s sunny clime,
Where I used 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-bag
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 wounded 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-ranks shout,
’Hi! ammunition-mules an’ Gunga Din!’

I shan’t forgit 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
At the place where ‘e is gone—
Where it’s always double drill and no canteen.
‘E’ll be squattin’ on the coals
Givin’ drink to poor damned souls,
An’ I’ll get a swig in hell from Gunga Din!
Yes, Din! Din! Din!
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

Summary of Gunga Din

  • Popularity of “Gunga Din”: Written by Indian-born English poet Rudyard Kipling, this poem presents English culture of presenting exotic colonized figures through the poetic character of Gunga Din, an Indian water carrier. The poem first appeared in 1980 and set the stage for the arrival of other such poems about or on Indian culture from Kipling. Although it seems a sympathetic and encouraging presentation of Gunga Din, the underlying racial tone emerges at several points with racial comments. This points to the popularity of the poem.
  • Gunga Din” As a Representative of Praise and Racial Contempt: The poet is all praise for Gunga Din, an Indian water carrier, having a goatskin bag on his shoulder and a rag around his waist, providing water to everybody in the cantonment area. The poet praises him that when soldiers are safely quartered, they may talk about alcohol, but they really need water. That is why they call Din, and he is there with them, but the use of Indian language appears to have racial undertones as the soldiers used to command rather than request him. Calling him a “squidgy-nosed” or “limpin’ lump”, Kipling shows a racial contempt for a local character whose job has made him a household name.
    Yet, he is all praise for him that despite his dark skin outside, Gunga Din is white and innocent at heart. That is why he continues working for the betterment of the soldiers, including those fighting on the front, where he saved many of the wounded soldiers. Even the speaker states that once he saved him when he got injured on the battlefield. Due to his good deeds, the speaker thinks that Gunga Din is better than him. Yet, he could not hide his contempt for his non-British status in the British dominion.
  • Major Themes in “Gunga Din”: Racial slurs, British superiority, and equal treatment for the locals during colonialism are major themes of the poem “Gunga Din.” Although it seems that the major intention of Kipling is to extol some Indian, a figure from his birthplace, yet his superior British sense does not seem to stay confined to words. It comes out when he uses the word black, or black-skinned, or even “squidgy-nosed” Indian water carrier. Yet, he continues praising him for his service on the battlefield for the Queen. He shows that British poets and writers used to laud the locals who helped them in any way. Due to the hot Indian weather, water carriers, a professional of the past, became a necessity and an integral part of the British cantonment areas. Therefore, he has praised this character but has not hidden his sense of superiority. It also shows how colonialism reduced the people to professions, and much of their energies of the imperial tools were lost in praising such nondescript figures.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Gunga Din

Rudyard Kipling’s excellence lies not only in writing poetry but also in using literary devices. Some of the major literary devices in this poem are as follows.

  1. Allusion: It means to use cite a reference of some cultural, historical, or religious significance. The poem used several allusions, such as Aldershot, bhisti, her Majesty the Queen or Panee Lao.
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /a/ in “When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere” and the sound of /o/ in “You will do your work on water.”
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /b/ in “bloomin’ boots” or “limpin’ lump”, /d/ in “double drill” or
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /d/ and /w/ in “When ‘e went to tend the wounded under fire” and the sound of /b/ in “With a bullet where my belt-plate should ‘a’ been.”
  5. Comparison: This literary device compares things to show or clarify them. The poem shows the use of a comparison, such as “You’re better man than I am.”
  6. Enjambment: It is a device in which the meanings of verse roll over to the next without having any pause or punctuation mark. This poem shows the use of enjambment, such as;

   ’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!’

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Rudyard Kipling used imagery in this poem, such as “When ‘e went to tend the wounded under fire”, “I was chokin’ mad with thirst” and “It was crawlin’ and it stunk”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects different in nature. The poet used the metaphor of damned souls for the soldiers.
  3. Rhetorical Question: It is a rhetorical device in which questions are asked not to elicit answers but to stress upon the idea. The poet used various rhetorical questions, such as “’You ‘eathen, where the mischief ‘ave you been?”
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols, such as a bullet, helmet, water, Aldershot, and slaughter to point out the help of Gunga Din in support of imperialism.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Gunga Din

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows good use of formal and poetic diction with a lot of contractions.
  2. End Rhyme: It means to use end words to rhyme with each other. The poet used end rhyme, such as beer/ere and slaughter/water.
  3. Repetition and Refrain: A repetition means the constant or repeated use of words. However, when these words or phrases are repeated at some interval in successive stanzas they become a refrain. For example, Din shows the use of repetition but the full verse “Yes, Din! Din! Din” is a refrain.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are eight stanzas with each comprising seventeen verses.
  5. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows a praising, racial, appreciative and interesting tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote to term somebody better than a person himself.

   Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din.