“Sahib, the burden is the feet of the multitude that pass us on either side. Our eyes being lowered and fixed, we see those feet only from the knee down—a river of feet, Sahib, that never—never—never stops. It is not the standing without any motion; it is not hunger; nor is it the dead part before the dawn when maybe a single one comes here to weep. It is the burden of the unendurable procession of feet from the knee down, that never—never—never stops!”
This is from “In the Presence” from A Diversity of Creatures. It describes the experience of soldiers from the Indian Army standing guard in St George’s Hall, Westminster in May 1910, as the body of Edward VII lay in state.
See Reginald Harbord’s article in KJ 129 (March 1959) for the verbatim account of one of the participants, Subadar-Major Santbir Gurung.
Daniel Karlin writes: In the evocation of the bowed figures forced to witness the endless, maddening procession of feet around the coffin of the dead King, Kipling creates one of the most haunting images of psychological stress in literature.