Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tom O'Bedlam


The following is a folk song/poem of unknown authorship, suspected to have been written around 1600, and definitively attested by at least 1634. 

Tom O'Bedlam

From the hagg and hungrie goblin
That into raggs would rend ye,
And the spirit that stands by the naked man
In the Book of Moones - defend ye!

That of your five sound senses
You never be forsaken,
Nor wander from your selves with Tom
Abroad to beg your bacon.

(Chorus; sung after every verse)

While I doe sing "any foode, any feeding,
Feedinge, drinke or clothing,"
Come dame or maid, be not afraid,
Poor Tom will injure nothing.

Of thirty bare years have I
Twice twenty been enraged,
And of forty been three times fifteen
In durance soundly caged.

On the lordly lofts of Bedlam,
With stubble soft and dainty,
Brave bracelets strong, sweet whips ding-dong,
With wholesome hunger plenty.

With a thought I took for Maudlin
And a cruse of cockle pottage,
With a thing thus tall, skie blesse you all,
I befell into this dotage.

I slept not since the Conquest,
Till then I never waked,
Till the roguish boy of love where I lay
Me found and stript me naked.

When I short have shorne my sowre face
And swigged my horny barrel,
In an oaken inn I pound my skin
As a suit of gilt apparel.

The moon's my constant Mistrisse,
And the lowly owl my morrowe,
The flaming Drake and the Nightcrow make
Me music to my sorrow.

The palsie plagues my pulses
When I prigg your pigs or pullen,
Your culvers take, or matchless make
Your Chanticleers, or sullen.

When I want provant, with Humfrie
I sup, and when benighted,
I repose in Powles with waking souls
Yet never am affrighted.

I know more than Apollo,
For oft, when he lies sleeping
I see the stars at bloody wars
In the wounded welkin weeping,

The moone embrace her shepherd
And the queen of Love her warrior,
While the first doth horne the star of morne,
And the next the heavenly Farrier.

The Gipsie Snap and Pedro
Are none of Tom's companions.
The punk I skorne and the cut purse sworne
And the roaring boyes bravadoe.

The meek, the white, the gentle,
Me handle touch and spare not
But those that crosse Tom Rynosseros
Do what the panther dare not.

With a host of furious fancies
Whereof I am commander,
With a burning spear and a horse of air,
To the wilderness I wander.

By a knight of ghostes and shadowes
I summon'd am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wild world's end.
Methinks it is no journey.

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