Dream weirdness: the song

As a follow-up to the Zippy on weird dreams, here’s the lyric masterpiece in the genre, Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Nightmare Song” from Iolanthe:

The lyrics, in quatrain verses with the rhyme pattern A B C B (with internal rhyme in most of the first and  third lines, and then a burst into rhymed couplets as it rushes towards the end);

Love unrequited robs me of me rest;
Love, hopeless love, my ardent soul encumbers;
Love, nightmare-like, lies heavy on me chest,
And weaves itself into my midnight slumbers…

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 bed-clothes conspire
Of usual slumber to plunder you:
First your counter-pane 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,
‘Til 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!

When you get some repose in the form of a doze,
With hot eyeballs and head ever aching,
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 come aboard
At Sloane Square and South Kensington stations.

And bound on that journey, you find your attorney
(who started this 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 peas,
Cauliflower, pineapple and cranberries,
While the pastry-cook 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 Bering,
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 acreep
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!
The night has been long, ditto, ditto my song,
And thank goodness they’re both of them over

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