When the cabin portholes are dark and green

(notes by Philip Holberton)


First published in Just So Stories for little children, 1902, following the story “How the Whale got his Throat” . Listed in ORG as No. 789.

Also collected in:

  • Inclusive verse (1919)
  • Definitive Verse (1940)
  • The Sussex Edition vol xiii and xxxiv (1939)
  • The Burwash Edition vol xii and xxvii (1941)
  • The Cambridge Edition (2013) Ed. Pinney, p. 890

The poem

This verse tells what it is like on a liner in stormy weather in the North Atlantic. The seas (waves) are so high that they cover and darken the port-holes; the steward (who is one of the crew and should be used to rough weather) falls into the tureen (basin) of soup he is bringing to the table; the ship is rolling enough to make the trunks (luggage) slide across the cabin floor; Nursey and Mummy only want to lie down and neither of them is looking after you.

Fifty North and Forty West: short for Latitude Fifty Degrees North and Longitude Forty Degrees West. In her Notes to the story, Lisa Lewis places this

roughly 550 miles east-north-east of St. John’s, Newfoundland, a deep-water area between the Grand Banks (scene of R.K’s Captains Courageous) and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

©Philip Holberton 2017 All rights reserved