July 28, 2003

Imperialism: A User's Manual

Rudyard Kipling writes about how this "colonization" business actually works where the rubber meets the road:

The Grave of the Hundred Head

by Rudyard Kipling

There's a widow in sleepy Chester
   Who weeps for her only son;
There's a grave on the Pabeng River,
   A grave that the Burmans shun,
And there's Subadar Prag Tewarri
   Who tells how the work was done.

A Snider squibbed in the jungle,
   Somebody laughed and fled,
And the men of the First Shikaris
   Picked up their Subaltern dead,
With a big blue mark in his forehead
   And the back blown out of his head.

Subadar Prag Tewarri,
   Jemadar Hira Lal,
Took command of the party,
   Twenty rifles in all,
Marched them down to the river
   As the day was beginning to fall.

They buried the boy by the river,
   A blanket over his face--
They wept for their dead Lieutenant,
   The men of an alien race--
They made a samadh in his honor,
   A mark for his resting-place.

For they swore by the Holy Water,
   They swore by the salt they ate,
That the soul of Lieutenant Eshmitt Sahib
   Should go to his God in state;
With fifty file of Burman
   To open him Heaven's gate.

The men of the First Shikaris
   Marched till the break of day,
Till they came to the rebel village,
   The village of Pabengmay--
A jingal covered the clearing,
   Calthrops hampered the way.

Subadar Prag Tewarri,
   Bidding them load with ball,
Halted a dozen rifles
   Under the village wall;
Sent out a flanking-party
   With Jemadar Hira Lal.

The men of the First Shikaris
   Shouted and smote and slew,
Turning the grinning jingal
   On to the howling crew.
The Jemadar's flanking-party
   Butchered the folk who flew.

Long was the morn of slaughter,
   Long was the list of slain,
Five score heads were taken,
   Five score heads and twain;
And the men of the First Shickaris
   Went back to their grave again,

Each man bearing a basket
   Red as his palms that day,
Red as the blazing village--
   The village of Pabengmay,
And the `drip-drip-drip' from the baskets
   Reddened the grass by the way.

They made a pile of their trophies
   High as a tall man's chin,
Head upon head distorted,
   Set in a sightless grin,
Anger and pain and terror
   Stamped on the smoke-scorched skin.

Subadar Prag Tewarri
   Put the head of the Boh
On the top of the mound of triumph,
   The head of his son below,
With the sword and the peacock-banner
   That the world might behold and know.

Thus the samadh was perfect,
   Thus was the lesson plain
Of the wrath of the First Shikaris--
   The price of a white man slain;
And the men of the First Shikaris
   Went back into camp again.

Then a silence came to the river,
   A hush fell over the shore,
And Bohs that were brave departed,
   And Sniders squibbed no more;
   For he Burmans said
   That a kullah's head
Must be paid for with heads five score.

There's a widow in sleepy Chester
   Who weeps for her only son;
There's a grave on the Pabeng River,
   A grave that the Burmans shun,
And there's Subadar Prag Tewarri
   Who tells how the work was done.

Posted by DeLong at July 28, 2003 12:37 PM | TrackBack


Today, an NPR reporter asked a BBC reporter in Iraq whether Britain might send more troops to Iraq because Britain was more experienced in colonial management. Huh? Britain has pulled half its force from Iraq, and Tony Blair has made it perfectly clear that he supports "American" soldiers in Iraq not British soldiers. Thanks Tony.

Posted by: Moen on July 28, 2003 01:13 PM


American soldiers 107
British soldiers 11
118 Since May 1

American 246
British 44
290 Totals

Note: American forces have risen to 148,000
British forces have been cut from 10,000 to 5,000

Posted by: lise on July 28, 2003 01:14 PM


A Marine Is Killed in Iraq, and Grief Ripples at Home

His family wanted a "showboat funeral" for Cpl. Travis J. Bradach-Nall, a 21-year-old marine who was killed in Iraq clearing mines on July 1. And that meant hiring stretch limousines.

It took seven to carry them all: Uncle John, Uncle James, Uncle Joel, Uncle Sam, Uncle Mike, Aunt Katie, Aunt Molly, Aunt Laurie, Aunt Sally and her husband, Uncle Frank — 18 aunts and uncles in all.

Then there were the cousins, dozens of them, including Jack, Christopher and Riley, who as boys traveled with Travis in a pack of four. There was Bobby, the baby sitter, and James, Travis's close friend from Grant High School, who set off a tall pile of fireworks last week — "a 21, two-liter-bomb salute," he called it — to say goodbye to Travis with 30 of his friends.

At the head of the procession, of course, was Corporal Bradach-Nall's mother, Lynn Bradach, 51, and his younger brother, Nick Nall, 19, the two people at the center of this wide circle of sadness, a close-knit clan of more than 100 relatives and friends in Portland rippling now with the grief of one marine's death....

Posted by: lise on July 28, 2003 01:20 PM

Well, yes, but I would have thought that as an economist you would have preferred

Arithmetic on the Frontier
Rudyard Kipling

A GREAT and glorious thing it is
To learn, for seven years or so,
The Lord knows what of that and this,
Ere reckoned fit to face the foe—
The flying bullet down the Pass,
That whistles clear: “All flesh is grass.”
Three hundred pounds per annum spent
On making brain and body meeter
For all the murderous intent
Comprised in “villanous saltpetre!”
And after — ask the Yusufzaies
What comes of all our ’ologies.

A scrimmage in a Border Station—
A canter down some dark defile—
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail—
The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride,
Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the text-books know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat,
Or ward the tulwar’s downward blow
Strike hard who cares—shoot straight who can—
The odds are on the cheaper man.

One sword-knot stolen from the camp
Will pay for all the school expenses
Of any Kurrum Valley scamp
Who knows no word of moods and tenses,
But, being blessed with perfect sight,
Picks off our messmates left and right.

With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem,
The troop-ships bring us one by one,
At vast expense of time and steam,
To slay Afridis where they run.
The “captives of our bow and spear”
Are cheap — alas! as we are dear.

Posted by: Chris Borthwick on July 28, 2003 03:59 PM

W., the man who would be king......

Posted by: -Tater on July 28, 2003 07:15 PM

Yes, thanks Chris. I was looking for the
"Arithmetic on the Frontier" to post. I like it
better too.


Posted by: Vivek on July 28, 2003 09:34 PM

There's 3000 graves in lower Manhattan, too, by the way.

Posted by: Mike G on July 29, 2003 07:19 AM

Interesting bit of etymology. I say an objection to Indians becoming "America's shikaris" in The Hindu the other day, but couldn't find the word in any dictionary I have.

And lo, here it is.

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on July 29, 2003 07:33 AM

>>There's 3000 graves in lower Manhattan<<

And do they have anything to do with what is going on in Iraq? No. (Afghanistan, yes.)

Posted by: Brad DeLong on July 29, 2003 08:07 AM

'Shikari' means hunter in Hindi. The "First Shikaris" were, I presume, a regiment whose name reflects the imperial British/Kiplinguesque taste for exoticism.

'Subadar' and 'Jemadar' were non-commissioned officers, always subordinate to young British lieutenants. The loyalty of the native Indian troops (who, after all, commit the massacre) might have resonated with some wishful thinking after the 1857 uprising. Their fierceness in revenge for the beloved officer's death is perfectly in tune with Kipling's regular portrayal of the noble savages.

Posted by: Vijay Poduri on July 29, 2003 11:00 AM

Never fear, Tony WMDs Blair will support an American revival of the Raj.

Posted by: arthur on July 29, 2003 11:32 AM

And if they ask you why we died
Tell them "Because our fathers lied"

Kipling, after his son was reported missing on
the Somme in WW 1

Posted by: sean on July 30, 2003 04:37 AM

And if they ask you why we died
Tell them "Because our fathers lied"

Kipling, after his son was reported missing on
the Somme in WW 1

Posted by: sean on July 30, 2003 04:37 AM
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