Moulmein from the Great Pagoda by Samuel Bourne (1832-1912), 1870. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Mandalay is a poem by Rudyard Kipling first published in the collection Barrack-Room Ballads, and other verses (first series), published in 1892.

The Mandalay referred to in this poem was the sometime capital city of Burma (now Myanmar), which was a British colony from 1885 to 1948. It mentions the old Moulmein pagoda, Moulmein being the Anglicised version of present-day Mawlamyine.

The British troops stationed in Burma were taken up (or down) the Irrawaddy River by paddle steamer. Rangoon to Mandalay was a 700 km trip each way.


By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin' lazy at the sea,
There's a Burma girl a-settin', and I know she thinks o' me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
"Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!"
                    Come you back to Mandalay,
                    Where the old Flotilla lay:
                    Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin' from Rangoon to Mandalay?
                    On the road to Mandalay,
                    Where the flyin'-fishes play,
                    An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

'Er petticoat was yaller an' 'er little cap was green,
An' 'er name was Supi-yaw-lat — jes' the same as Theebaw's Queen,
An' I seed her first a-smokin' of a whackin' white cheroot,
An' a-wastin' Christian kisses on an 'eathen idol's foot:
                    Bloomin' idol made o'mud —
                    Wot they called the Great Gawd Budd —
                    Plucky lot she cared for idols when I kissed 'er where she stud!
                    On the road to Mandalay . . .

When the mist was on the rice-fields an' the sun was droppin' slow,
She'd git 'er little banjo an' she'd sing "Kulla-lo-lo!"
With 'er arm upon my shoulder an' 'er cheek agin' my cheek
We useter watch the steamers an' the hathis pilin' teak.
                    Elephints a-pilin' teak
                    In the sludgy, squdgy creek,
                    Where the silence 'ung that 'eavy you was 'arf afraid to speak!
                    On the road to Mandalay . . .

But that's all shove be'ind me — long ago an' fur away,
An' there ain't no 'busses runnin' from the Bank to Mandalay;
An' I'm learnin' 'ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells:
"If you've 'eard the East a-callin', you won't never 'eed naught else."
                    No! you won't 'eed nothin' else
                    But them spicy garlic smells,
                    An' the sunshine an' the palm-trees an' the tinkly temple-bells;
                    On the road to Mandalay . . .

I am sick o' wastin' leather on these gritty pavin'-stones,
An' the blasted Henglish drizzle wakes the fever in my bones;
Tho' I walks with fifty 'ousemaids outer Chelsea to the Strand,
An' they talks a lot o' lovin', but wot do they understand?
                    Beefy face an' grubby 'and —
                    Law! wot do they understand?
                    I've a neater, sweeter maiden in a cleaner, greener land!
                    On the road to Mandalay . . .

Ship me somewheres east of Suez, where the best is like the worst,
Where there aren't no Ten Commandments an' a man can raise a thirst;
For the temple-bells are callin', an' it's there that I would be —
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, looking lazy at the sea;
                    On the road to Mandalay,
                    Where the old Flotilla lay,
                    With our sick beneath the awnings when we went to Mandalay!
                    On the road to Mandalay,
                    Where the flyin'-fishes play,
                    An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!

Rudyard Kipling

Film ReferencesEdit

The poem is quoted in the movie "The Last of His Tribe" 1992. During a campfire, Dr. Saxton Pope, played by David Ogden Stiers, quotes most of the poem in a dramatic fashion.

In The Wizard of Oz (1939 film), the Cowardly Lion quotes Mandalay during his famous "Courage" speech. "And the dawn comes up like thunder."


Kipling's text was adapted for the song "On the Road to Mandalay" by Oley Speaks (among others). The song was popularised by Peter Dawson. It appears in the album Come Fly with Me by Frank Sinatra.

The song is published with only first, second and last verse of the poem, with the chorus; although singers sometimes omit the second verse. The Kipling family objected to Sinatra's version of the song. When the album was initially released in the UK, the song "French Foreign Legion" replaced "Mandalay", whilst apparently the song "Chicago" (and "It Happened in Monterey" on some pressings) were used in other parts of the British Commonwealth. Sinatra sang the song in Australia, in 1959, and relayed the story of the Kipling family objection to the song. In 2008, in the Family Guy episode Tales of a Third Grade Nothing, Frank Sinatra Jr. and Seth MacFarlane spoofed the song.

There is also a song of Russian singer Vera Matveeva "On the road to Mandalay" translated by E. Polonskaya.

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

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