The Female of the Species

Original Text: 
Rudyard Kipling's Verse: Definitive Edition (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1940): 367-69.
1When the Himalayan peasant meets the he-bear in his pride,
2He shouts to scare the monster, who will often turn aside.
3But the she-bear thus accosted rends the peasant tooth and nail.
4For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
5When Nag the basking cobra hears the careless foot of man,
6He will sometimes wriggle sideways and avoid it if he can.
7But his mate makes no such motion where she camps beside the trail.
8For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
11'Twas the women, not the warriors, turned those stark enthusiasts pale.
12For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.
13Man's timid heart is bursting with the things he must not say,
14For the Woman that God gave him isn't his to give away;
15But when hunter meets with husband, each confirms the other's tale--
16The female of the species is more deadly than the male.
17Man, a bear in most relations--worm and savage otherwise,--
18Man propounds negotiations, Man accepts the compromise.
19Very rarely will he squarely push the logic of a fact
20To its ultimate conclusion in unmitigated act.
21Fear, or foolishness, impels him, ere he lay the wicked low,
22To concede some form of trial even to his fiercest foe.
23Mirth obscene diverts his anger--Doubt and Pity oft perplex
24Him in dealing with an issue--to the scandal of The Sex!
25But the Woman that God gave him, every fibre of her frame
26Proves her launched for one sole issue, armed and engined for the same;
27And to serve that single issue, lest the generations fail,
28The female of the species must be deadlier than the male.
29She who faces Death by torture for each life beneath her breast
30May not deal in doubt or pity--must not swerve for fact or jest.
31These be purely male diversions--not in these her honour dwells.
32She the Other Law we live by, is that Law and nothing else.
33She can bring no more to living than the powers that make her great
34As the Mother of the Infant and the Mistress of the Mate.
35And when Babe and Man are lacking and she strides unclaimed to claim
36Her right as femme (and baron), her equipment is the same.
37She is wedded to convictions--in default of grosser ties;
38Her contentions are her children, Heaven help him who denies!--
39He will meet no suave discussion, but the instant, white-hot, wild,
40Wakened female of the species warring as for spouse and child.
41Unprovoked and awful charges--even so the she-bear fights,
42Speech that drips, corrodes, and poisons--even so the cobra bites,
43Scientific vivisection of one nerve till it is raw
44And the victim writhes in anguish--like the Jesuit with the squaw!
45So it comes that Man, the coward, when he gathers to confer
46With his fellow-braves in council, dare not leave a place for her
47Where, at war with Life and Conscience, he uplifts his erring hands
48To some God of Abstract Justice--which no woman understands.
49And Man knows it! Knows, moreover, that the Woman that God gave him
50Must command but may not govern--shall enthral but not enslave him.
51And She knows, because She warns him, and Her instincts never fail,
52That the Female of Her Species is more deadly than the Male.


9] Hurons and Choctaws: aboriginal Iroquoians living about Lake Huron, and Muskogeans living in Mississippi and Alabama. Back to Line
10] squaws: wives. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: