The Perils of Invisibility

written by

« Reload image

Old PETER led a wretched life -
Old PETER had a furious wife;
Old PETER too was truly stout,
He measured several yards about.

The little fairy PICKLEKIN
One summer afternoon looked in,
And said, "Old PETER, how de do?
Can I do anything for you?

"I have three gifts - the first will give
Unbounded riches while you live;
The second health where'er you be;
The third, invisibility."

"O little fairy PICKLEKIN,"
Old PETER answered with a grin,
"To hesitate would be absurd, -
Undoubtedly I choose the third."

"'Tis yours," the fairy said; "be quite
Invisible to mortal sight
Whene'er you please.  Remember me
Most kindly, pray, to MRS. P."

Old MRS. PETER overheard
Wee PICKLEKIN'S concluding word,
And, jealous of her girlhood's choice,
Said, "That was some young woman's voice:

Old PETER let her scold and swear -
Old PETER, bless him, didn't care.
"My dear, your rage is wasted quite -
Observe, I disappear from sight!"

A well-bred fairy (so I've heard)
Is always faithful to her word:
Old PETER vanished like a shot,

For when conferred the fairy slim
Invisibility on HIM,
She popped away on fairy wings,
Without referring to his "things."

So there remained a coat of blue,
A vest and double eyeglass too,
His tail, his shoes, his socks as well,
His pair of - no, I must not tell.

Old MRS. PETER soon began
To see the failure of his plan,
And then resolved (I quote the Bard)
To "hoist him with his own petard."

Old PETER woke next day and dressed,
Put on his coat, and shoes, and vest,
His shirt and stock; BUT COULD NOT FIND
HIS ONLY PAIR OF - never mind!

Old PETER was a decent man,
And though he twigged his lady's plan,
Yet, hearing her approaching, he
Resumed invisibility.

"Dear MRS. P., my only joy,"
Exclaimed the horrified old boy,
"Now, give them up, I beg of you -
You know what I'm referring to!"

But no; the cross old lady swore
She'd keep his - what I said before -
To make him publicly absurd;
And MRS. PETER kept her word.

The poor old fellow had no rest;
His coat, his stick, his shoes, his vest,
Were all that now met mortal eye -
The rest, invisibility!

"Now, madam, give them up, I beg -
I've had rheumatics in my leg;
Besides, until you do, it's plain
I cannot come to sight again!

"For though some mirth it might afford
To see my clothes without their lord,
Yet there would rise indignant oaths
If he were seen without his clothes!"

But no; resolved to have her quiz,
The lady held her own - and his -
And PETER left his humble cot
To find a pair of - you know what.

But - here's the worst of the affair -
Whene'er he came across a pair
Already placed for him to don,
He was too stout to get them on!

So he resolved at once to train,
And walked and walked with all his main;
For years he paced this mortal earth,
To bring himself to decent girth.

At night, when all around is still,
You'll find him pounding up a hill;
And shrieking peasants whom he meets,
Fall down in terror on the peats!

Old PETER walks through wind and rain,
Resolved to train, and train, and train,
Until he weighs twelve stone' or so -
And when he does, I'll let you know.

© William Schwenck Gilbert