Sunday 25 September 2016

The Sunday Poem... Anthony Cronin's personal anthology

W.S. Gilbert

Published 20/07/2015 | 02:30

Anthony Cronin. Photo by Tony Gavin
Anthony Cronin. Photo by Tony Gavin

William Schwenk Gilbert was the writer and Arthur Sullivan the composer of what became identified as the Savoy Operas, a series that included such favourites of the comic opera as HMS Pinafore and The Mikado.

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Both were already well-known, Gilbert as a playwright and Sullivan as a serious classical composer, when their partnership began.

They quarrelled often, sometimes quite bitterly. Sullivan thought the operettas were beneath him as a serious composer and Rossini's friend and collaborator. He also had politics while Gilbert had none, and Sullivan's was the bitterer nature. When they broke up Gilbert went on writing plays. In the 1870s the English theatre was at a low ebb of creativity and he was a considerable figure in it. He died heroically - of a heart attack while trying to rescue a young woman who had thrown herself into a lake. Nightmare is from the operetta Iolanthe.

From  Nightmare

W.S. Gilbert

When you're lying awake with a dismal headache, and repose

is taboo'd by anxiety

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...

You're a regular wreck, with a crick in your neck, and no wonder

you snore, for your head's on the floor,

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...

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.

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