In the City of Berlin

(notes by Philip Holberton drawing on the research of Andrew Rutherford and Thomas Pinney)


In Kipling’s handwriting on a dinner menu card of the SS City of Berlin during the voyage from New York to Liverpool, dated 26 September 1889. It is now in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

It was not collected by Kipling, but is to be found in Rutherford (p. 466) and Pinney (p. 1961).

The Poem

A gloat by a seasoned sailor at the expense of the rest of the passengers who have been miserably sea-sick. This was clearly a rough passage across the North Atlantic.

Notes on the Text

[Title] City of Berlin was a British ocean liner that won the Blue Riband for the Inman Line in 1875 as the fastest liner on the Atlantic and the largest active passenger ship for six years. She was the Inman Line’s premier vessel for thirteen years until City of New York was commissioned in 1888.

eat ‘ate’.

menew ‘menu’.

their basins to be sick into.

Davy Jones According to Tobias Smollett in The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle(1751) Davy Jones is the fiend that presides over all the evil spirits of the deep, and is often seen in various shapes, perching among the rigging on the eve of hurricanes, ship-wrecks, and other disasters. Drowned seafarers end up in his Locker.

load and unfill eat and vomit.


©Philip Holberton 2020 All rights reserved