'The Ballad of East and West' is a poem by Rudyard Kipling. It was first published in 1889, and has been much collected and anthologised since. Its first line is often quoted, sometimes as an example of Kipling's attitudes to race and to the Empire; but those who quote it thus often completely miss the third and fourth lines. It is worth quoting the refrain which opens, and closes, the poem in full:
Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God's great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth!
This may be read as saying that 'it is indisputable that geographic points of the compass will never meet in this life, but that when two strong men [or equals] meet, the accidents of birth, whether of nationality, race, or family, do not matter at all - the Asian and the European are equals'.
According to dictionary.reference.com:
'The culture of the West ( Europe and the Americas) will always be very different from that of the East ( Asia). ( Twain means “two.”) This saying is part of the refrain of “The Ballad of East and West,” a poem by Rudyard Kipling.'
As an English literature dropout, I was reminded of the quote when I first saw these two pictures showing meetings of contrasts:
Skagden, Denmark, where Baltic Sea and North Sea meet...