30.10.13

"Nightmare" by William Schwenk Gilbert


Nightmare
by William Schwenk Gilbert

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 com-
      pany 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 trades-
     man (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!