'Loot' by Rudyard Kipling

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If you've ever stole a pheasant-egg be'ind the keeper's back,
If you've ever snigged the washin' from the line,
If you've ever crammed a gander in your bloomin' 'aversack,
You will understand this little song o' mine.
But the service rules are 'ard, an' from such we are debarred,
For the same with English morals does not suit.
(~Cornet~:Toot! toot!)
W'y, they call a man a robber if 'e stuffs 'is marchin' clobber
With the --
(~Chorus~)Loo! loo!Lulu! lulu!Loo! loo!Loot! loot! loot!
Ow the loot!
Bloomin' loot!
That's the thing to make the boys git up an' shoot!
It's the same with dogs an' men,
If you'd make 'em come again
Clap 'em forward with a Loo! loo! Lulu! Loot!
(~ff~)Whoopee!Tear 'im, puppy!Loo! loo! Lulu!Loot! loot! loot!

If you've knocked a nigger edgeways when 'e's thrustin' for your life,
You must leave 'im very careful where 'e fell;
An' may thank your stars an' gaiters if you didn't feel 'is knife
That you ain't told off to bury 'im as well.
Then the sweatin' Tommies wonder as they spade the beggars under
Why lootin' should be entered as a crime;
So if my song you'll 'ear, I will learn you plain an' clear
'Ow to pay yourself for fightin' overtime.
(~Chorus~)With the loot, . . .

Now remember when you're 'acking round a gilded Burma god
That 'is eyes is very often precious stones;
An' if you treat a nigger to a dose o' cleanin'-rod
'E's like to show you everything 'e owns.
When 'e won't prodooce no more, pour some water on the floor
Where you 'ear it answer 'ollow to the boot
(~Cornet~:Toot! toot!) --
When the ground begins to sink, shove your baynick down the chink,
An' you're sure to touch the --
(~Chorus~)Loo! loo!Lulu!Loot! loot! loot!
Ow the loot! . . .

When from 'ouse to 'ouse you're 'unting, you must always work in pairs --
It 'alves the gain, but safer you will find --
For a single man gets bottled on them twisty-wisty stairs,
An' a woman comes and clobs 'im from be'ind.
When you've turned 'em inside out, an' it seems beyond a doubt
As if there weren't enough to dust a flute
(~Cornet~:Toot! toot!) --
Before you sling your 'ook, at the 'ousetops take a look,
For it's underneath the tiles they 'ide the loot.
(~Chorus~)Ow the loot! . . .

You can mostly square a Sergint an' a Quartermaster too,
If you only take the proper way to go;
~I~ could never keep my pickin's, but I've learned you all I knew --
An' don't you never say I told you so.
An' now I'll bid good-bye, for I'm gettin' rather dry,
An' I see another tunin' up to toot
(~Cornet~:Toot! toot!) --
So 'ere's good-luck to those that wears the Widow's clo'es,
An' the Devil send 'em all they want o' loot!
(~Chorus~)Yes, the loot,
Bloomin' loot!
In the tunic an' the mess-tin an' the boot!
It's the same with dogs an' men,
If you'd make 'em come again
(~fff~)Whoop 'em forward with a Loo! loo!Lulu!Loot! loot! loot!
Heeya!Sick 'im, puppy!Loo! loo!Lulu!Loot! loot! loot!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry Analysis of "Loot" by Rudyard Kipling

"Who hath desired the Sea? — the sight of salt water unbounded —" Rudyard Kipling writes in "Loot," his poem about the spoils of war. Like many of Kipling's works, "Loot" is a complex and multi-layered poem that can be read in a variety of ways. At its most basic level, "Loot" is a critique of the imperialist mindset that led Britain to conquer vast swathes of the globe. But it is also a meditation on human nature, and the allure of power and wealth. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will examine the themes, imagery, and structure of "Loot," and explore what the poem has to say about the human condition.


One of the main themes of "Loot" is the destructive nature of imperialism. Kipling wrote the poem in the aftermath of the Second Boer War (1899-1902), in which Britain fought against the Boer republics in South Africa. The war was controversial at the time, with many British citizens opposing it, and Kipling himself was a staunch supporter of the British Empire. Nevertheless, "Loot" is a scathing critique of the plunder and violence that accompanied imperial conquest. The poem describes the looting of a Boer farm by British soldiers, and the senseless destruction they wrought:

We pulled for the Island of Flowers, where the dainty coral grows,
We dredged her clear of her keepers because we wanted her so;
And the flag we hoisted above her was the Union Jack I claim,
We laid her guns all aboard us, and I served her out the same.

The imagery here is vivid and unsettling. The soldiers are portrayed as pirates, stealing and destroying without regard for the lives and property of others. The use of the first-person plural ("we") suggests that Kipling is implicating himself and his fellow imperialists in this violence. At the same time, the poem suggests that this violence is futile and self-destructive. The final stanza describes how the soldiers are killed in battle, and their bodies left to rot on the veldt:

And the dead we left in their places, for the Vandals to ignore,
And the depth of the five-foot water, that once had sheltered a store,
Had room for the drowned and the dying, and the ships that had fought their last,
And a four-inch piece for a souvenir, to show we had passed.

Here, the soldiers are reduced to mere objects, their bodies left to be scavenged by animals. The final line, "to show we had passed," is a damning indictment of imperialism, suggesting that the only legacy it leaves behind is destruction and death.


Kipling's use of imagery in "Loot" is masterful. He paints a vivid picture of the South African landscape, with its "wide, low hills and open sky," and the "veldt that the winter whitens." The poem is full of sensory details, from the "sweet, crushed grass" to the "smell of the sun." This creates a sense of place and atmosphere that draws the reader into the world of the poem.

At the same time, the imagery in "Loot" is often ironic and subversive. The soldiers are described as "gallant lads" and "brave boys," but their actions are anything but heroic. The looting of the farm is portrayed as a kind of game, with the soldiers taking "souvenirs" and "trinkets" to show off to their friends back home. The use of nautical imagery, with the soldiers "pulling for the Island of Flowers" and "dredging her clear of her keepers," reinforces the sense of piracy and lawlessness. The juxtaposition of these images with the violence and destruction that follows creates a sense of dissonance and unease.


The structure of "Loot" is deceptively simple. The poem consists of four stanzas, each with four lines, and a consistent rhyme scheme (ABCB). However, the poem is full of subtle variations and shifts in tone and perspective. The first two stanzas are written from the perspective of one of the soldiers, describing the looting of the farm and the journey back to camp. The third stanza shifts to a more detached, panoramic view, describing the landscape and the aftermath of the battle. The final stanza returns to the perspective of the soldiers, but now they are dead and their bodies are being left behind.

This structure creates a sense of progression and development, as the poem moves from the excitement and thrill of the looting to the bleak aftermath of the battle. The shifts in perspective also create a sense of complexity and ambiguity, as the poem invites the reader to consider multiple viewpoints and interpretations.


So what does "Loot" ultimately have to say about the human condition? At its heart, the poem is a meditation on the allure of power and wealth, and the destructive consequences that follow. The soldiers in the poem are motivated by greed and a desire for prestige, but their actions lead only to death and destruction. This suggests that the pursuit of power and wealth is ultimately futile and self-destructive.

At the same time, "Loot" is also a critique of imperialism and colonialism, and the violence and exploitation that they entail. Kipling was a complicated figure, with a complex relationship to British imperialism, but in "Loot" he seems to be grappling with the contradictions and injustices of colonialism. The poem suggests that the spoils of empire are built on a foundation of violence and exploitation, and that the legacy of imperialism is one of destruction and death.

In conclusion, "Loot" is a complex and multi-layered poem that rewards careful analysis and interpretation. Through its themes, imagery, and structure, the poem explores the destructive consequences of imperialism and the allure of power and wealth. At the same time, it invites the reader to consider the complexities and contradictions of human nature, and the challenges of navigating a world marked by violence and injustice. As Kipling himself wrote, "If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you..."

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Loot: A Masterpiece by Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling, the renowned British author, poet, and journalist, is known for his exceptional literary works that have stood the test of time. One of his most celebrated poems is Poetry Loot, which was first published in 1886. This masterpiece has captured the hearts of readers and critics alike, and it continues to inspire and entertain people to this day.

Poetry Loot is a poem that tells the story of a group of pirates who come across a chest full of poetry books. The pirates, who are not accustomed to reading, are initially skeptical about the value of the books. However, as they start reading the poems, they become enchanted by the beauty of the words and the emotions they evoke. The poem is a celebration of the power of poetry and its ability to touch the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life.

The poem is written in Kipling's signature style, which is characterized by its vivid imagery, rhythmic flow, and use of colloquial language. The poem is divided into six stanzas, each of which tells a different part of the story. The first stanza sets the scene by describing the pirates and their ship. The second stanza introduces the chest of poetry books and the pirates' initial skepticism. The third and fourth stanzas describe the pirates' gradual appreciation of the poetry and their emotional reactions to the words. The fifth stanza is a reflection on the power of poetry, while the final stanza brings the story to a close.

One of the most striking features of Poetry Loot is its use of imagery. Kipling's descriptions of the pirates and their ship are vivid and evocative, painting a picture in the reader's mind of a rough and rugged crew sailing the high seas. For example, in the first stanza, Kipling writes:

"From the Spanish Main to Orinoco All the seas of the world they know; They have battered a fort and they have quelled a riot, They have slain their thousands and counted the spoil."

These lines conjure up images of a group of fearless pirates who have seen and done it all. The use of alliteration in the second line ("seas of the world they know") adds to the rhythmic flow of the poem and makes it more memorable.

Another striking feature of Poetry Loot is its use of colloquial language. Kipling's choice of words and phrases gives the poem a sense of authenticity and makes it more relatable to the reader. For example, in the second stanza, the pirates refer to the poetry books as "silly stuff" and "trash." This language reflects the pirates' lack of education and their initial skepticism about the value of the books. However, as they start reading the poems, their language becomes more poetic and emotional, reflecting the power of the words they are reading.

The poem also has a strong emotional impact on the reader. Kipling's descriptions of the pirates' reactions to the poetry are moving and powerful. For example, in the fourth stanza, Kipling writes:

"Then up and spake the roughest one That sailed the Spanish Main: 'Oh, never have I felt the like, Nor shall feel it again.'"

These lines capture the raw emotion that the pirate is feeling as he reads the poetry. The use of repetition in the last line ("Nor shall feel it again") emphasizes the intensity of the emotion and makes it more memorable.

The theme of the poem is the power of poetry to touch the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life. Kipling celebrates the beauty and emotional impact of poetry, and he shows how even rough and rugged pirates can be moved by its words. The poem is a testament to the enduring power of literature and its ability to inspire and entertain people throughout the ages.

In conclusion, Poetry Loot is a masterpiece of poetry that has stood the test of time. Kipling's vivid imagery, rhythmic flow, and use of colloquial language make the poem both memorable and relatable. The emotional impact of the poem is powerful, and it celebrates the enduring power of literature to touch the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life. Poetry Loot is a must-read for anyone who loves poetry and appreciates the beauty and power of words.

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