From Gilbert and Sullivan to my fellow insomniacs

. . . 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. . .

. . . 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!

“The Lord Chancellor’s Nightmare” from Iolanthe, 1882, by Gilbert and Sullivan; lyrics by William Gilbert.

Nobody does English rhyme and rhythm better than Gilbert and Sullivan. I think I’ll set myself to memorizing these lyrics; maybe if I recite them to myself in the wee hours they’ll put me back to sleep.


About Jessica Renshaw
This entry was posted in Gilbert and Sullivan, Humor, Poetry and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to From Gilbert and Sullivan to my fellow insomniacs

  1. tedrey says:

    “if I recite them to myself in the wee hours they’ll put me back to sleep.”
    I actually used to do that. Thankfully, I haven’t needed to for decades.

  2. On sleep: lately, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.

  3. dimple says:

    I don’t usually deal with insomnia, so forgive me if this is insensitive, but this poem is funny!

    I hope for a good night’s sleep for you, very soon!

  4. Thank you, Louise! No, it’s not insensitive at all. In frustrating or aggravating situations sometimes we get so desperate we have to laugh! And I am doing better.

    On Sat, Sep 7, 2013 at 10:43 AM, hiddeninjesus

  5. High K says:

    I pray the alphabet. I start with A…I have three or 4 As that need prayer. Sometimes I just being at M, because the folks at the end of alphabet rarely get prayed for. If I ever make it to T, you know those folks are in need. Usually I am out by G. I am so happy to pray for those people. They are my regulars. Malissa


  6. Great idea, Malissa! Can’t wait to lose sleep again!

    On Mon, Sep 9, 2013 at 7:29 PM, hiddeninjesus

  7. Alan Witton says:

    One of my favourite G & S operas, and one of my favourite songs. Of course there is more, and even funnier, the confused nature of his dreams when he does finally get to sleep. Try to get to see “Iolanthe” performed sometime if you can, although some of the plot shows a uniquely English humour!

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