You're a Better Man Than I Am Integrating Language, Literature and Literacy with a Text about Asia: Rudyard Kipling's Poem Gunga Din

By Collins, Garry | Literacy Learning: The Middle Years, October 2012 | Go to article overview

You're a Better Man Than I Am Integrating Language, Literature and Literacy with a Text about Asia: Rudyard Kipling's Poem Gunga Din


Collins, Garry, Literacy Learning: The Middle Years


Introduction

One of the cross-curriculum priorities of the Australian Curriculum: English (AC:E) is 'Asia and Australia's engagement with Asia'. With a focus on teaching useful grammar in context, the workshop session on which this article is based aimed to model how the strands of the Foundation to Year 10 segment of the AC:E (language, literature and literacy) could be integrated in work with a text about Asia.

In Injia's sunny clime

Rudyard Kipling's poem Gunga Din was first published in 1892 in a collection entitled Barrack Room Ballads. The poem provides a picture of India in the late 19th century, in the days of the British Raj. Some might object that this text deals with India's past rather than its present and that the representation it provides is one seen through European rather than Asian eyes. In response, I would argue that knowledge of the past helps us to understand the present and its lengthy experience of colonialism has necessarily helped shape the country that India is today. In addition, I like the poem and have always thought that it is important for teachers to use texts about which they themselves are enthusiastic.

The poem

The full text of the poem is as follows. The stanza and refrain numbers do not normally appear but have been inserted here for ease of reference.

Stanza 1

You may talk o' gin and beer
When you're quartered safe out 'ere,
An' you're sent to penny-fights an' Aldershot it;
But when it comes to slaughter
You will do your work on water;
An' you'll lick the bloomin' boots of 'im that's got
it.

Now in Injia's sunny clime,
Where I used to spend my time
A-servin' of 'Er Majesty the Queen,
Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din.

Refrain 1

It was 'Din! Din! Din!
You limpin' lump o' brick-dust, Gunga Din!
Hi! slippery hitherao!
Water, get it! Panee lao!
You squidgy-nosed old idol, Gunga Din.'

Stanza 2

The uniform 'e wore
Was nothin' much before,
An' rather less than 'arf o' that be'ind,
For a piece o' twisty rag
An' a goatskin water-bag

Was all the field-equipment 'e could find.
When the sweatin' troop-train lay
In a sidin' through the day,
Where the 'eat would make your bloomin'
eyebrows crawl,
We shouted 'Harry By!'
Till our throats were bricky-dry,
Then we wopped 'im 'cause 'e couldn't serve us
all.

Refrain 2

It was 'Din! Din! Din!
You 'eathen, where the mischief 'ave you been?
You put some juldee in it
Or I'll marrow you this minute
If you don't fill up my helmet, Gunga Din!'

Stanza 3

'E would dot an' carry one
Till the longest day was done;
An' 'e didn't seem to know the use o' fear.
If we charged or broke or cut,
You could bet your bloomin' nut,
'E'd be waitin' fifty paces right flank rear:
With 'is mussick on 'is back,
'E would skip with our attack,
An' watch us till the bugles made 'Retire',
An' for all 'is dirty 'ide
'E was white, clear white, inside
When 'e went to tend the wounded under fire!

Refrain 3

It was 'Din! Din! Din!'
With the bullets kickin' dust-spots on the green.
When the cartridges ran out,
You could hear the front-files shout,
'Hi! ammunition-mules an' Gunga Din!'

Stanza 4

I shan't forgit the night
When I dropped be'ind the fight
With a bullet where my belt-plate should 'a' been.
I was chokin' mad with thirst,
An' the man that spied me first
Was our good old grinnin', gruntin' Gunga Din.
'E lifted up my 'ead,
An' he plugged me where I bled,
An' 'e guv me 'arf-a-pint o' water green:
It was crawlin' and it stunk,
But of all the drinks I've drunk,
I'm gratefullest for one from Gunga Din.

Refrain 4

It was 'Din! Din! Din!
'Ere's a beggar with a bullet through 'is spleen;
'E's chawin' up the ground,
An' 'e's kickin' all around:
For Gawd's sake git the water, Gunga Din!'

Stanza 5

'E carried me away
To where a dooli lay,
An' a bullet come an' drilled the beggar clean. … 

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