The Practical Joker

A poem by William Schwenck Gilbert

Oh what a fund of joy jocund lies hid in harmless hoaxes!
What keen enjoyment springs
From cheap and simple things!
What deep delight from sources trite inventive humour coaxes,
That pain and trouble brew
For every one but you!
Gunpowder placed inside its waist improves a mild Havanah,
Its unexpected flash
Burns eyebrows and moustache;
When people dine no kind of wine beats ipecacuanha,
But common sense suggests
You keep it for your guests -
Then naught annoys the organ boys like throwing red-hot coppers,
And much amusement bides
In common butter-slides.
And stringy snares across the stairs cause unexpected croppers.
Coal scuttles, recollect,
Produce the same effect.
A man possessed
Of common sense
Need not invest
At great expense -
It does not call
For pocket deep,
These jokes are all
Extremely cheap.
If you commence with eighteenpence (it's all you'll have to pay),
You may command a pleasant and a most instructive day.

A good spring gun breeds endless fun, and makes men jump like rockets,
And turnip-heads on posts
Make very decent ghosts:
Then hornets sting like anything, when placed in waist-coat pockets
Burnt cork and walnut juice
Are not without their use.
No fun compares with easy chairs whose seats are stuffed with needles -
Live shrimps their patience tax
When put down people's backs -
Surprising, too, what one can do with fifty fat black beedles -
And treacle on a chair
Will make a Quaker swear!
Then sharp tin tacks
And pocket squirts -
And cobblers' wax
For ladies' skirts -
And slimy slugs
On bedroom floors -
And water jugs
On open doors -
Prepared with these cheap properties, amusing tricks to play,
Upon a friend a man may spend a most delightful day!

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