Sunday, 14 December 2008

Tom o'Bedlam

The title of the poem below the last post comes from this anonymous ballad circa 1600. You'd be right to think of Edgar (Poor Tom's a cold):

Tom o'Bedlam

From the hag and hungry goblin
that into rags would rend ye,
and the spirit that stands by the naked man
in the book of moons, defend ye,
that of your five sound senses
ye never be forsaken,
nor wander from yourselves with Tom
abroad to beg your bacon.

[Chorus]
While I do sing, any food,
any feeding, drink, or clothing?
Come, dame or maid, be not afraid,
poor Tom will injure nothing.

Of thirty barren years have I
twice twenty been enragèd,
and of forty been three times fifteen
in durance soundly cagèd
on the lordly lofts of Bedlam,
with stubble soft and dainty,
brave bracelets strong, sweet whips, ding-dong,
and a wholesome hunger plenty.

While I do sing, any food....

With a thought I took for Maudlin,
and a cruse of cockle pottage,
with a thing thus tall, sky bless you all,
I fell into this dotage.
I slept not since the Conquest,
till then I never wakèd,
till the roguish boy of love where I lay
me found and stripped me naked.

While I do sing, any food....

When I short have shorn my sour-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 mistress,
and the lowly owl my morrow;
The flaming drake and the night-crow make
me music to my sorrow.

While I do sing, any food....

The palsy plagues my pulses,
when I prig your pigs or pullen,
Your culvers take, or matchless make
your chanticleer or sullen.
When I want provant, with Humphry
I sup, and when benighted,
I repose in Paul's with waking souls,
yet never am affrighted.

While I do sing, any food....

I know more than Apollo,
for oft when he lies sleeping
I see the stars at bloody wars
in the wounded welkin weeping,
the Moon embrace her shepherd,
and the queen of love her warrior,
while the first doth horn the star of morn,
and the next the heavenly Farrier.

While I do sing, any food....

The gipsy Snap and Pedro
are none of Tom's comradoes.
The punk I scorn, and the cutpurse sworn,
And the roaring boys' bravadoes.
The meek, the white, the gentle,
me handle, touch, and spare not;
but those that cross Tom Rhinoceros
do what the panther dare not.

While I do sing, any food....

With an 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 ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wild world's end,
methinks it is no journey.

While I do sing, any food....

2 comments:

la said...

Maybe you'll like this

Abysmal Musings said...

Thanks for that, an interesting version.