minstrel: Tom of Bedlam....

Dick Eney dickeney at access.digex.net
Fri Feb 7 09:43:28 PST 1997


On Fri, 7 Feb 1997 TrueRhymer at aol.com wrote:

> I am trying to research the Song "Mad Tom of Bedlam", and also I am looking
> for the 5 th verse (with a host of furious fancy?)  Anybody got anything?  (I
> know it's about an infamous insane asylum, but not much more).  Cool Song, is
> there a cool story to match?_/;{]} True

Since Vuong Manh is at work, I'll answer this one.  I got the words from
(mumble some book or other authoritative sounding) and some of the history
from the liner notes to "Dark Ships in the Forest" by John Roberts and
Tony Barrand, who sing "Mad Maudlin's Search" to (I assume) Tom
Gilfellon's tune.  (Mad Maudlin's search is more commonly known in the SCA
as "Bedlam Boys.")

  "Tom O'Bedlam's Song" is an anonymous, pre-Shakespearian lyric. It
has eight verses and a chorus.
  Bedlam was the popular (slurred) name for the Hospital of St. Mary
of Bethlehem, in London, for male mental patients.  The corresponding
institution for women was named after Mary Magdalene, which was
slurred to "Maudlin."
  Bedlamite songs were extremely popular in the 16th and 17th
centuries.  "Mad Maudlin's Search for Her Tom of Bedlam", currently
popularized by Tom Gilfellon, was published by Thomas D'Urfey in his
_Pills to Purge Melancholy_ in 1720.  Related songs are to be found in
Jack Lindsay's _Loving Mad Tom_ (1927).

     Tom O'Bedlam's Song

>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: 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.

   *** end of song ***

Powles is St. Paul's Cathedral; Tom is sleeping among the crypts.
It is made clear that Tom's madness is due to the French Disease and
that he commits bestiality.

=Tamar the Gypsy (sharing account dickeney at access.digex.net)

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