"Gunga Din" And How to Read Racist Poetry

December 9, 2017





Poem: "Gunga Din" By Rudyard Kipling


Gunga Din is a "blackfaced crewman" who brings water to British troops in "Injia" If any of those words seemed racist and offend you, by god you had better run for the hills! That is only the beginning.


Just Google these two words "Racist Poetry," And Gunga Din is one of the top poems selected by El Googlio for being racist.


If words can "trigger" someone and make them uncomfortable or even violent, then almost all of the words in literature and poetry must be condemned. This is a poem that may trigger some people. It may make you uncomfortable. But progress by its nature requires discomfort. We cannot grow our muscles by sitting in a locked room staring at a wall and protecting our arms: "The metal is too harsh! I need my safe space!" 


In this story, a soldier tells the tale of a water bearer he met in India, while the British soldiers were battling some native savages. Go on the journey of discovery with this soldier as he begins to question his own assumptions. Perhaps, you will question yours too.


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,   

      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!





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