Rudyard Kipling

(30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936 / Bombay)

Mandalay - Poem by Rudyard Kipling

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' eastward to 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!


Comments about Mandalay by Rudyard Kipling

  • Bronze Star - 2,960 Points Francis Lynch (2/24/2015 7:45:00 AM)

    Kipling was a racist and a bigot. Fuck him and his poetry. (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • Bronze Star - 2,939 Points John Richter (2/24/2015 6:54:00 AM)

    John Sims, Mandalay itself is in Burma, east of what was British India at the time. More than half of Burma's west border is at the Bay of Bengal, directly east of India, which was also British territory. Kipling was about 19 or 20 in 1885 - and most likely a soldier - when the third and final Anglo-Burmese war settled Burma as a province of British India. It seems to me that later in life, while in London, he was recalling this woman that he encountered - and I assume took as a lover during his earlier Burma days. There was at some point a time when Burma regained it's independence from Britain and that explains his remark that there were no more ships going back to Burma. As we all do from time to time, I think Kipling was recalling his fondness for an early love and reminiscing, wishing he could go back and experience it all over again. Although the rest of us don't do it quite as elegantly as Kipling reveals.... But a rose is a rose by any name, and the simultaneous joy and pain of such memories are incredibly breath taking to us all. I really enjoy how Kipling attempted to throw a cockney accent to this poem... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie John Sims (4/7/2014 1:18:00 PM)

    Has anybody ever wondered about the geographical descriptions in the poem (looking eastward/lazy to the sea; dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay) ?
    It's a far stretch from Mandalay to the nearest sea and I doubt you'd be able to see much of China (or any sort of bay) from there.
    Even so, this doesn't detract from the feeling of the poem. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie John Howe (2/15/2010 2:02:00 PM)

    There are those who have been very sniffy about Kipling (Orwell in particular) and there has been much debate about whether he wrote 'poetry' or whether he was just a writer of verse but there are very few poets or 'writers of verse' who can evoke images as vividly as Kipling (Report) Reply

Read all 4 comments »



Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?

Read poems about / on: soldier, sick, london, sunshine, sea, girl, silence, green, wind, sun, kiss, fish, fishing, tree



Poem Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002



[Hata Bildir]