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From 1899, an early recitation of Rudyard Kipling's challenge to Western minds and powers in his poem The White Man’s Burden.

The White Man's Burden

Company Edison's National Phonograph Company
Cylinder # 3858
Category Recitation
Title The White Man's Burden
Performed by B. Russell Throckmorton
Circa 1899
Announcement "Kipling, The White Man's Burden, by B. Russell Throckmorton."

A very fine recording of Kipling's thought-provoking poem of exhortation and caution on the march of Western civilization and progress.   What Kipling penned here is often distilled as hegemony, paternalism if not pure imperialism, racism.   But beyond the obvious late-19th Century worldview, I hear textured warnings to the prevailing Western mindset: The short-term cost of the march may be high and the rewards small, for nearly all except a few.

Original handwritten record slip on stamped paper.
Note: The penciled number at top is in error. Throckmorton's (rare) records in this series were nos. 3857 through 3860.

See the August 2001 Cylinder of the Month for another early recording of a Kipling poem.

To hear The White Man’s Burden  

For help playing these sounds, click here.

There are several known variants of the poem, but the recording appears to follow the original published version (reprinted below) except possibly replacing "God" with "gods" in the last line of the next to last stanza.

“The White Man’s Burden”  
by Rudyard Kipling.

Take up the White Man's burden—
  Send forth the best ye breed—
Go, bind your sons to exile
  To serve your captives' need; 
To wait, in heavy harness, 
  On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
  Half devil and half child.

Take up the White Man's burden—
  In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror 
  And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple, 
  An hundred times made plain, 
To seek another's profit
  And work another's gain.

Take up the White Man's burden—
  The savage wars of peace—
Fill full the mouth of Famine, 
  And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest 
  (The end for others sought)
Watch sloth and heathen folly 
  Bring all your hope to nought.

Take up the White Man's burden—
  No iron rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper—
  The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter, 
  The roads ye shall not tread,
Go make them with your living
  And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man's burden 
  And reap his old reward—
The blame of those ye better
  The hate of those ye guard—
The cry of hosts ye humour 
  (Ah, slowly!) toward the light :—
" Why brought he us from bondage, 
  Our loved Egyptian night? "

Take up the White Man's burden—
  Ye dare not stoop to less—
Nor call too loud on Freedom 
  To cloak your weariness.
By all ye will or whisper, 
  By all ye leave or do,
The silent sullen peoples 
  Shall weigh your God and you.

Take up the White Man's burden!
  Have done with childish days—
The lightly-proferred laurel, 
  The easy ungrudged praise :
Comes now, to search your manhood
  Through all the thankless years, 
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom, 
  The judgment of your peers.
— McClure's Magazine, February 1899

To learn more about Kipling's poem, see:


To hear other examples of wax cylinders, see the

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