Gunga Din

Original Text: 
Rudyard Kipling's Verse: Definitive Edition (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1940): 406-08.
1You may talk o' gin and beer
4But when it comes to slaughter
5You will do your work on water,
8Where I used to spend my time
9A-servin' of 'Er Majesty the Queen,
10Of all them blackfaced crew
11The finest man I knew
13        He was "Din! Din! Din!
14    "You limpin' lump o' brick-dust, Gunga Din!
18The uniform 'e wore
19Was nothin' much before,
20An' rather less than 'arf o' that be'ind,
21For a piece o' twisty rag
23Was all the field-equipment 'e could find.
24When the sweatin' troop-train lay
26Where the 'eat would make your bloomin' eyebrows crawl,
28Till our throats were bricky-dry,
30        It was 'Din! Din! Din!
31    "You 'eathen, where the mischief 'ave you been?
34    "If you don't fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!"
36Till the longest day was done;
42'E would skip with our attack,
43An' watch us till the bugles made "Retire,"
45'E was white, clear white, inside
46When 'e went to tend the wounded under fire!
47        It was 'Din! Din! Din!'
48    With the bullets kickin' dust-spots on the green.
49        When the cartridges ran out,
50        You could hear the front-ranks shout,
52I shan't forgit the night
53When I dropped be'ind the fight
54With a bullet where my belt-plate should 'a' been.
55I was chokin' mad with thirst,
56An' the man that spied me first
57Was our good old grinnin', gruntin' Gunga Din.
58'E lifted up my 'ead,
61It was crawlin' and it stunk,
62But of all the drinks I've drunk,
63I'm gratefullest to one from Gunga Din.
64        It was 'Din! Din! Din!
65    "'Ere's a beggar with a bullet through 'is spleen;
67        "An' 'e's kickin' all around:
68    "For Gawd's sake git the water, Gunga Din!"
69'E carried me away
71An' a bullet come an' drilled the beggar clean.
72'E put me safe inside,
73An' just before 'e died,
75So I'll meet 'im later on
76At the place where 'e is gone--
78'E'll be squattin' on the coals
79Givin' drink to poor damned souls,
81        Yes, Din! Din! Din!
84        By the livin' Gawd that made you,
85    You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

Notes

2] quartered: housed. The cockney speaker regularly elides initial h and final consonants such as d and g. Back to Line
3] Aldershot: a verb evidently meaning to engage in just a training exercise (Aldershot in Hampshire became a permanent British army training camp in 1854). Back to Line
6] bloomin': mild swear word. Back to Line
7] Injia: India. Back to Line
12] bhisti: water-carrier, literally ."heavenly one." (Ralph Durand, A Handbook to the Poetry of Rudyard Kipling [London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1914]: 26). Back to Line
15] Slippy: slim. hitherao: an Hindi expression, "come here." Back to Line
16] Panee lao: an Hindi expression, "bring water pronto." Back to Line
17] squidgy-nosed: snubbed and plump. Back to Line
22] ."In the Indian army goatskin is the material of which the bag must be made, as Mohammedans could not drink from a bag made of pigskin, and Hindu religious prejudice would be offended by the use of calf-skin." (Durand 27). Back to Line
25] sidin': railway siding. Back to Line
27] "Harry By!": an Hindi expression, "O brother." Back to Line
29] wopped: shouted (Henry W. Wells, "Kipling's Barrack-Room Language," American Speech 18.4 [Dec. 1943]: 276). Back to Line
32] juldee: an Hindi expression, "hurry up." Back to Line
33] marrow: an Hindi expression, "hit." Back to Line
35] dot an' carry one: "A schoolboy's expression in some processes of elementary arithmetic (subtraction, division, and addition). Hence, a name for such process; also for one who does calculations or teaches elementary arithmetic" (OED, "dot," v.1). Back to Line
37] Despite the fact that the bhisti had no gun to defend himself (Durand 27). Back to Line
38] broke: allowed the line to break. cut: ran off. Back to Line
39] nut: head. Back to Line
40] ."Behind the right-hand side of the company to which he is attached." (Durand 27). Back to Line
41] mussick: "A leather water-bag, esp. one made from the whole skin of a goat" (OED, "mussuck"). Back to Line
44] 'ide: hide, skin. Back to Line
51] ammunition-mules: porters who brought ammunition up to the line. Back to Line
59] plugged: bandaged. Back to Line
60] guv: gave. 'arf-a-pint: a half-pint. water green: foul water. Back to Line
66] chawin': biting. Back to Line
70] dooli: canvas litter for the wounded. Back to Line
74] sez: says. Back to Line
77] drill: military exercises. Back to Line
80] swig: short drink. Back to Line
82] Lazarushian-leather: C. M. C. Fawcett writes RPO ... "My ancestors the Lazarus family had a furniture company in Calcutta India ... called C Lazurus and Co. They were well respected in the community and produced extremely fine furniture which was used in decorating of many Durber palaces. They were also friends of Kipling's. The leather which they produced was called Lazarushian leather." Back to Line
83] belted: hit. flayed: taken the skin off. Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2007
Form: