minstrel: Tom O'Bedlam

Heather Rose Jones hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu
Fri Feb 7 22:09:02 PST 1997

I'm not entirely sure of the attributions here since the original didn't
have quote markers, but I'm assuming Katherine wrote the indented

On Fri, 7 Feb 1997, Katherine Penney wrote:

>      Shakespeare and Pepys both referred to Barbara Allen, is that proper 
>      documentation for the versions available to me?  I've heard "Twa 
>      Corbies is period because there was a broadside published in 1611 with 
>      a similar storyline called Three Ravens"....  *sigh*

The problem is that reference to a song by _title_ tells you nothing about
the version. 19th century American versions of Barbara Allen are going to
be different enough from Shakespeare's that they might as well be
different songs. As mentioned previously in this venue, "Twa Corbies" is
generally held to be a later parody of "Three Ravens".

> PS the tune commonly used for Mad Maudlin is modern, not the one published 
> in D'Urfey's _Pills to Purge Melancholy_.
>      I don't think D'Urfey should be used to document "PERIOD" music since 
>      many of the tunes in D'Urfey (several versions published around 1700, 
>      earliest 1698?)
> =Tamar the Gypsy (sharing account dickeney at access.digex.net)
>      I've pasted the lyrics you contributed that someone verified as being 
> Of your five sound senses,
> You'll never be forsaken,
> Nor wander from yourself with Tom,
> Abroad to beg your bacon.
>         C:  Hey, notice that the rhyme patterns are 
>         different between this first verse and all the others?  The 
>         "second" verse with the internal rhyme in 
>         the third line feels much more modern than the first.

I can't speak specifically to the use of this line-internal rhyme in
English verse, but you do find half-line rhymes similar to this in
medieval Welsh verse. This isn't particularly to the point, except to say
that it isn't in any absolute sense "modern".

> And the wounded welkin weeping.
>         C: A Welkin is a fiend of some sort, again suspicion.

"Welkin" is an archaic word for "sky, heaven". The "wounded welkin
weeping" would be rain.

> With a flaming spear, and a horse of air,
>         C: Hmm...another supernatural animal...

It could be simply metaphoric, as in the description of a horse in
Shakespeare's "Henry V" as "pure air and fire".

> A knight of ghosts and shadows,
>         C: Here is a word play that I don't see to be pre 17th century.

I'm not sure exactly what you're referring to, but the OED notes the use
of "shadow" as a homonym for "ghost" (or perhaps "demon") as early as the
14th century.

> oops.  I guess I didn't copy the whole thing...but you see what I mean?
> I'd date THESE lyrics (I'm not saying that Tom O Bedlam or its tune is 
> oop!) around 1700 too...too much mysticism and supernatural reference...

I actually agree, in general, that a great deal of the imagery and
heavily-supernatural "feel" is suspicious, but I'm not familiar enough
with 16th century English balladry to do much more than wonder. Many of
the specific points you make don't seem to hold up on close examination.
The verses certainly have more of a "composed" than a "traditional" feel
to them (using the scare-quotes to side-step the question of whether
"traditional"  ballads were most likely composed).

> Does anyone else feel this way?  Tangwystl, can you document the meter?

As I note above, late-period English meters aren't my strong point. With
the exception of the line-internal rhyme in the third line, it's a basic
ballad meter. If you take the ballad meter as:
	- four lines
	- 2 & 4 obligatorily rhyme; 1 & 3 _may_ rhyme
	- 1 & 3 have four main stresses
	- 2 & 4 may have either three or four main stresses
	- may have chorus or refrain of other meter
Then there are copious examples of this type of lyric in Middle English
(see, for example, "Middle English Lyrics" ed. by Luria & Hoffman). A
sample might be:

"Summe men sayen that I am blac
It is a colour for my prow
Ther I love, ther is no lac,
I may not be so white as thou. (etc."


"All night by the rose, rose,
All night by the rose I lay,
Darf ich nought the rose stele,
And yet ich bar the flour away."

So I would venture to vouch for the basic meter structure.

Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn

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