John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton
jheaton

Poet's Corner: Mandalay

My dad just got back from Myanmar, of all places, and he thinks I should post Kipling's poem about Burma. Good idea!

Mandalay

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' lazy at the sea,
There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
"Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!"
          Come you back to Mandalay,
          Where the old Flotilla lay:
          Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay?
          On the road to Mandalay,
          Where the flyin'-fishes play,
          An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

'Er petticoat was yaller an' 'er little cap was green,
An' 'er name was Supi-yaw-lat — jes' the same as Theebaw's Queen,
An' I seed her first a-smokin' of a whackin' white cheroot,
An' a-wastin' Christian kisses on an 'eathen idol's foot:
          Bloomin' idol made o'mud —
          Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd —
          Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed 'er where she stud!
          On the road to Mandalay . . .

When the mist was on the rice-fields an' the sun was droppin' slow,
She'd git 'er little banjo an' she'd sing "Kulla-lo-lo!"
With 'er arm upon my shoulder an' 'er cheek agin' my cheek
We useter watch the steamers an' the hathis pilin' teak.
          Elephints a-pilin' teak
          In the sludgy, squdgy creek,
          Where the silence 'ung that 'eavy you was 'arf afraid to speak!
          On the road to Mandalay . . .

But that's all shove be'ind me — long ago an' fur away,
An' there ain't no 'busses runnin' from the Bank to Mandalay;
An' I'm learnin' 'ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
"If you've 'eard the East a-callin', you won't never 'eed naught else."
          No! you won't 'eed nothin' else
          But them spicy garlic smells,
          An' the sunshine an' the palm-trees an' the tinkly temple-bells;
          On the road to Mandalay . . .

I am sick o' wastin' leather on these gritty pavin'-stones,
An' the blasted Henglish drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;
Tho' I walks with fifty 'ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,
An' they talks a lot o' lovin', but wot do they understand?
          Beefy face an' grubby 'and —
          Law! wot do they understand?
          I've a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!
          On the road to Mandalay . . .

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin', an' it's there that I would be —
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea;
          On the road to Mandalay,
          Where the old Flotilla lay,
          With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!
          On the road to Mandalay,
          Where the flyin'-fishes play,
          An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

Rudyard Kipling (1865 – 1936)

Tags: family, poet's corner, travel
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