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William Schwenck Gilbert

(1836 - 1911 / London / England)

A Nightmare


When you're lying awake with a dismal headache, and repose is
taboo'd by anxiety,
I conceive you may use any language you choose to indulge in
without impropriety;
For your brain is on fire - the bedclothes conspire of usual
slumber to plunder you:
First your counterpane goes and uncovers your toes, and your sheet
slips demurely from under you;
Then the blanketing tickles - you feel like mixed pickles, so
terribly sharp is the pricking,
And you're hot, and you're cross, and you tumble and toss till
there's nothing 'twixt you and the ticking.
Then the bedclothes all creep to the ground in a heap, and you pick
'em all up in a tangle;
Next your pillow resigns and politely declines to remain at its
usual angle!
Well, you get some repose in the form of a doze, with hot eyeballs
and head ever aching,
But your slumbering teems with such horrible dreams that you'd very
much better be waking;
For you dream you are crossing the Channel, and tossing about in a
steamer from Harwich,
Which is something between a large bathing-machine and a very small
second-class carriage;
And you're giving a treat (penny ice and cold meat) to a party of
friends and relations -
They're a ravenous horde - and they all came on board at Sloane
Square and South Kensington Stations.
And bound on that journey you find your attorney (who started that
morning from Devon);
He's a bit undersized, and you don't feel surprised when he tells
you he's only eleven.
Well, you're driving like mad with this singular lad (by the bye
the ship's now a four-wheeler),
And you're playing round games, and he calls you bad names when you
tell him that "ties pay the dealer";
But this you can't stand, so you throw up your hand, and you find
you're as cold as an icicle,
In your shirt and your socks (the black silk with gold clocks),
crossing Salisbury Plain on a bicycle:
And he and the crew are on bicycles too - which they've somehow or
other invested in -
And he's telling the tars all the particuLARS of a company he's
interested in -
It's a scheme of devices, to get at low prices, all goods from
cough mixtures to cables
(Which tickled the sailors) by treating retailers, as though they
were all vegeTAbles -
You get a good spadesman to plant a small tradesman (first take off
his boots with a boot-tree),
And his legs will take root, and his fingers will shoot, and
they'll blossom and bud like a fruit-tree -
From the greengrocer tree you get grapes and green pea,
cauliflower, pineapple, and cranberries,
While the pastry-cook plant cherry-brandy will grant - apple puffs,
and three-corners, and banberries -
The shares are a penny, and ever so many are taken by ROTHSCHILD
and BARING,
And just as a few are allotted to you, you awake with a shudder
despairing -
You're a regular wreck, with a crick in your neck, and no wonder
you snore, for your head's on the floor, and you've needles and
pins from your soles to your shins, and your flesh is a-creep, for
your left leg's asleep, and you've cramp in your toes, and a fly on
your nose, and some fluff in your lung, and a feverish tongue, and
a thirst that's intense, and a general sense that you haven't been
sleeping in clover;
But the darkness has passed, and it's daylight at last, and the
night has been long - ditto, ditto my song - and thank goodness
they're both of them over!

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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