Rudyard Kipling’s The Ballad of East and West Explained | What is the Significance of the Poem?

The Ballad of East and West is a wonderful poem that sheds light on the hollowness of racism, and beauty of humanity.

Exploring the themes of racism and morality, the poem shows social division is just an excuse for fanning violence and disparity. The text set in the British Raj follows Kamal, a tribal chieftain, who steals a British colonel’s mare. The events that follow turn out to be a ‘ballad’ of different mindsets.

Let’s check out how this special ‘ballad’ rolls out.

What happens after Kamal steals the Colonel’s mare?

The British Colonel’s troop tell his son the place where Kamal might be is dangerous as it is guarded by ferocious tribesmen. Without wasting any time, the Colonel’s son (unnamed) sets out on his horse to retrieve the mare. The Colonel’s son finds Kamal sitting on the mare and unsuccessfully fires at him twice.

The two men decide to have a horse race. They race until the Colonel’s son’s horse collapses on a bridge. Kamal takes his enemy to safety and knocks his pistol off. Kamal tells the young man that he is still alive because he didn’t gesture for his men to slay him.

What does the Colonel’s son do after Kamal saves his life?

Impressed by Kamal’s chivalry and kindness, the Colonel’s son offers his father’s mare to him. However, upon seeing the Colonel’s son, the mare runs to him. Kamal realizes the Colonel’s son is the right man to keep the mare. Consequently, he gives the mare and the saddle to him.

Why does Kamal’s son join the Colonel’s son on his way back?

Kamal calls his son and introduces him to the Colonel’s son. He tells him that the Colonel’s son is his master now, and he must protect him even though that’d mean he’s a traitor. The Colonel’s son and Kamal’s son immediately understand what Kamal means and they swear blood brotherhood.

They ride to the British fort where Kamal’s son is subjected to taunts. However, the Colonel’s son denounces such behaviour and appoints Kamal’s son as a fellow soldier.

What is the significance of The Ballad of East and West?

Over the years, The Ballad of East and West has been interpreted in multiple ways. However, the most prominent interpretation of the tale is that all these divisions will eventually fade away, and it’s humanity and our services and kindness towards each other that matter.

What do you think of Kipling’s poem? Let us know in the comments below.

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