THE NIGHTMARE SONG

Gilbert & Sullivan

Other Writers

WHEN YOU'RE LYING AWAKE WITH A DISMAL HEADACHE

 

From Iolanthe

 

Libretto by William S. Gilbert, Music by Sir Arthur Sullivan

Sung by Lord Chancellor

 

 

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—

And the bedclothes conspire

Of your 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 eye-balls 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 by, 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 pastrycook plant

Cherry brandy will grant,

Apple puffs, and three corners, and Banburys—

 

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!