Anonymous – Tom o’Bedlam’s Song (16th century)

Tom O’ Bedlam’s Song

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
You never be forsaken,
Nor wander from yourselves with Tom
Abroad to beg your bacon.

(Chorus; sung after every verse)
While I do sing “any food, any feeding,
Money, drink or clothing,”
Come dame or maid, be not afraid,
Poor Tom will injure nothing.

Of thirty bare years have I
Twice twenty been enragéd,
And of forty been three times fifteen
In durance soundly cagéd.
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, sky bless you all,
I befell into this dotage.
I slept not since the Conquest,
Till then I never wakéd,
Till the roguish boy of love where I lay
Me found and stript me naked.

When I short have shorne 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 Nightcrow make
Me music to my sorrow.

The palsy plagues my pulses
When I prig your pigs or pullen,
Your culvers take, or matchless make
Your Chanticleers, or sullen.
When I want provant, with Humphrey
I sup, and when benighted,
I repose in Paul’s 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 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.

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.

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 ghosts and shadows
I summon’d am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wild world’s end.
Methinks it is no journey.