John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

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!


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

  • Public service announcement

    This is Canadian curler Jennifer Jones, who is considered very likely to win an Olympic medal in Sochi: Photo via CBC Sports She should not be…

  • Poet's Corner: people's choice (part 3)

    How did Friday become my busiest day of the week? No time for anything substantive or original today, so here's another of the poems my Facebook…

  • "Edgy"

    At the sandwich shop the other day, we were listening, as we often do, to Pandora's classic rock station. They play about what you'd expect to hear…

  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.