A few notes: Since there are a lot of Hindi phrases in today's poem, I've left the translations alongside rather than put them in the Notes at the end. *word* is used in place of italics. 'Din' is roughly pronounced Dheen. The transliterations aren't my fault :)
(Poem #1127) Gunga Din
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. [water carrier] He was "Din! Din! Din! You limpin' lump o' brick-dust, Gunga Din! Hi! slippery *hitherao*! Water, get it! *Panee lao*! [bring water swiftly] 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!*" [Mr. Atkins's equivalent for "O brother."] 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 [be quick] Or I'll *marrow* you this minute [hit you] 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, [water-skin] '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-files 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!
Today's poem has received perhaps the highest accolade possible - the phrase "you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din" has passed into the language complete with variants of the form "you're a $fooer $bar than I am, Gunga Din". This is, of course, mostly due to the perfect cadence of the last line - it's an irresistibly quotable phrase once you've heard it, for reasons that have nothing to do with the rest of the poem. Quite apart from that, though, this is very justly one of Kipling's best known pieces. In a body of poems dealing with the plight of Thomas Atkins, an ordinary man doing a thankless job in a war he didn't care about, Gunga Din stands out as perhaps Kipling's most memorable hero. His status as a noncombatant makes the tale at once more heroic and more tragic, and his rough treatment at the hands of the regiment invests him with all the pathos an age-old literary tradition can be made to yield - but over and above that, there is the very Kiplingesque touch of presenting his story from a soldier's point of view, and that makes a significant difference. What we get, almost without realising it, is not just the story of Gunga Din, but the story of Din's relationship with the regiment he served - a relationship far more complex than the "harsh masters and mistreated but nobly loyal servant" situation that lines like Then we wopped 'im 'cause 'e couldn't serve us all. might lead one to assume. This is a crucial point, because if you do not allow a measure of genuine love - or perhaps a mutual *belonging* is more to the point - between Din and the regiment, the final line comes across as nothing more than a pretty and somewhat patronising statement. As for the theme, I won't repeat my remarks on what makes a good narrative poem; suffice it to say that Gunga Din satisfies the criteria in full measure. martin Links: Translations from Gutenberg, via http://penn.betatesters.com/kipling.htm Theme: [broken link] http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/collections/58.html There was a movie loosely based on the poem: http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunga_Din