'Gunga Din' by Rudyard Kipling

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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! 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!

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Epic Tale of Gunga Din: An Interpretation of Rudyard Kipling's Classic Poem

When it comes to poetry that has stood the test of time, few works can match the enduring popularity of Rudyard Kipling's "Gunga Din." This classic poem tells the story of an Indian water bearer who becomes a hero in the face of danger and adversity, showcasing themes of loyalty, bravery, and the power of the human spirit.

At its core, "Gunga Din" is a stirring tribute to the ordinary people who make extraordinary sacrifices in the course of their everyday lives. Kipling's vivid imagery and dynamic language bring the character of Gunga Din to life, crafting a narrative that is both thrilling and moving.

The Story of Gunga Din

The poem begins by introducing the reader to the titular character, a lowly water bearer who serves in the British army in colonial India. From the outset, Kipling creates a vivid portrait of Gunga Din as a man who is both humble and resilient, with a fierce determination to do his duty no matter what the cost.

As the poem progresses, Gunga Din is called upon to perform a series of increasingly dangerous tasks in service of his British masters. He carries water to soldiers in the midst of battle, braves treacherous terrain to deliver messages, and even risks his life to save a wounded comrade.

Despite the danger and hardship he faces, Gunga Din remains steadfast in his devotion to his duty and his fellow soldiers. His courage and selflessness ultimately result in his death, but his memory lives on as a symbol of the indomitable spirit of the Indian people.

Themes and Interpretations

At its core, "Gunga Din" is a stirring tribute to the power of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Kipling presents Gunga Din as a hero who is made strong not by physical prowess or military might, but by his unwavering sense of duty and his deep connection to his fellow soldiers.

Throughout the poem, Kipling also explores themes of loyalty and bravery. Gunga Din's unwavering devotion to his duty and his comrades is a testament to the power of loyalty, while his willingness to face danger and sacrifice himself for others showcases the true meaning of bravery.

In addition to these themes, "Gunga Din" also has important political and cultural implications. The poem was written during a time of great upheaval in India, as the country struggled to gain independence from British colonial rule. In this context, Gunga Din can be seen as a symbol of the Indian people's resilience and determination in the face of oppression.

Language and Imagery

Kipling's language in "Gunga Din" is rich and evocative, drawing the reader into the world of colonial India with its vivid descriptions of landscape, culture, and people. The poem is full of sensory details, from the "red-coats" of the British soldiers to the "misty pan" of the Indian landscape.

One of the most powerful aspects of "Gunga Din" is Kipling's use of imagery to convey the character of his hero. Gunga Din is depicted as a man of incredible physical strength, with the ability to carry heavy loads of water across rough terrain without faltering. At the same time, however, he is also shown as a deeply spiritual figure, with a connection to the land and a sense of duty that transcends the physical realm.


In the end, "Gunga Din" is a masterpiece of poetic storytelling that continues to captivate readers more than a century after it was first published. Through his vivid language, dynamic imagery, and powerful themes, Kipling creates a portrait of a hero who embodies the best of the human spirit.

Whether read as a tribute to the Indian people's struggle for independence, a celebration of the power of loyalty and bravery, or simply a gripping tale of adventure and heroism, "Gunga Din" remains a timeless work of literature that speaks to the human condition in all its complexity and beauty.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Gunga Din: A Classic Poem by Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Gunga Din” is a classic piece of literature that has stood the test of time. It is a poem that has been read and loved by generations of readers, and it continues to be relevant today. The poem tells the story of a water carrier named Gunga Din, who serves the British soldiers in India. The poem is a tribute to the bravery and loyalty of Gunga Din, and it celebrates the bond between the British soldiers and their Indian helpers.

The poem begins with the speaker describing the harsh conditions of the Indian landscape. The sun is blazing down, and the soldiers are thirsty and tired. The speaker then introduces Gunga Din, who is carrying water to the soldiers. The speaker describes Gunga Din as a “little brown man” who is “grinning like a weasel.” This description may seem derogatory to modern readers, but it is important to remember that Kipling was writing in a different time and place. The poem was written in 1890, when India was still a British colony, and racial attitudes were very different from what they are today.

The speaker then goes on to describe Gunga Din’s physical appearance. He is small and wiry, with a “thin red stripe” on his forehead. This stripe is a mark of his caste, which is the lowest in the Indian social hierarchy. The speaker notes that Gunga Din is “damned good-natured,” despite his lowly status. This is an important point, as it shows that Gunga Din is not bitter or resentful about his position in life. He is a cheerful and willing worker, who takes pride in his job.

The poem then takes a darker turn, as the soldiers come under attack from a group of hostile natives. The speaker describes the chaos and confusion of the battle, as the soldiers fight for their lives. In the midst of this chaos, Gunga Din appears, carrying water to the wounded soldiers. The speaker notes that Gunga Din is “coolie brave,” which means that he is brave in the face of danger, despite his lowly status. Gunga Din is not a soldier, but he is willing to risk his life to help the British soldiers.

The poem then reaches its climax, as Gunga Din is shot and killed while carrying water to the soldiers. The speaker describes the moment of Gunga Din’s death in vivid detail. He notes that Gunga Din falls to the ground, but he does not spill a drop of water. This is a powerful image, as it shows that Gunga Din was so dedicated to his job that he was willing to die rather than let the soldiers go thirsty. The speaker then delivers the famous lines:

“You may talk o’ gin and beer When you’re quartered safe out here, 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.”

These lines are a tribute to Gunga Din, and they celebrate the importance of his job. The soldiers may enjoy their gin and beer when they are safe, but when they are in danger, they rely on Gunga Din to bring them water. The speaker notes that Gunga Din’s job is not glamorous or prestigious, but it is essential to the survival of the soldiers.

The poem ends with the soldiers burying Gunga Din with full military honors. The speaker notes that Gunga Din’s death was not in vain, as he saved many lives by bringing water to the soldiers. The poem concludes with the lines:

“So I’ll meet ’im later on In 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!”

These lines are a tribute to Gunga Din’s loyalty and bravery. The speaker imagines that Gunga Din is now in heaven, serving drinks to the souls of the damned. The speaker notes that he will be happy to have a drink from Gunga Din, even if it is in hell.

In conclusion, “Gunga Din” is a classic poem that celebrates the bravery and loyalty of a water carrier in India. The poem is a tribute to the bond between the British soldiers and their Indian helpers, and it celebrates the importance of even the most humble jobs. The poem has been criticized for its racial attitudes, but it is important to remember that Kipling was writing in a different time and place. Despite its flaws, “Gunga Din” remains a powerful and moving tribute to a brave and loyal servant.

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