Percy's Reliques - Old Tom of Bedlam.

Old Tom of Bedlam.


            It is worth attention, that the English have more songs and ballads on the subject of madness, than any of their neighbours. Whether there be any truth in the insinuation, that we are more liable to this calamity than other nations, or that our native gloominess hath peculiarly recommended subjects of this cast to our writers; we certainly do not find the same in the printed collections of French, Italian songs, &c.

            Out of a much larger quantity, we have selected half a dozen mad songs for these volumes. The three first are originals in their respective kinds; the merit of the three last is chiefly that of imitation. They were written at considerable intervals of time; but we have here grouped them together, that the reader may the better examine their comparative merits. He may consider them as so many trials of skill in a very peculiar subject, as the contest of so many rivals to shoot with the bow of Ulysses. The two first were probably written about the beginning of the last century; the third about the middle of it; the fourth and sixth towards the end; and the fifth within the eighteenth century.

            This is given from the Editor's folio MS. compared with two or three old printed copies.-- With regard to the author of this old rhapsody, in Walton's Complete Angler, cap. 3, is a song in praise of angling, which the author says was made at his request "by Mr. William Basse, one that has made the choice songs of The Hunter in his Career, and of Tom of Bedlam, and many others of note," p. 84. See Sir John Hawkins's curious edition, 8vo. of that excellent old book.

FORTH from my sad and darksome cell,
Or from the deepe abysse of hell,
Mad Tom is come into the world againe
To see if he can cure his distempered braine.

Feares and cares oppresse my soule;
Harke, howe the angrye Fureys houle!
Pluto laughes, and Proserpine is gladd
To see poore naked Tom of Bedlam madd.

Through the world I wander night and day
To seeke my straggling senses,
In an angrye moode I mett old Time,
With his pentarchye of tenses:

When me he spyed,
Away he hyed,
For time will stay for no man
In vaine with cryes
I rent the skyes,
For pity is not common.

Cold and comfortless I lye:
Helpe, oh helpe! or else I dye!
Harke! I heare Apollo's teame,
The carman 'gins to whistle;
Chast Diana bends her bowe,
The boare begins to bristle.

Come, Vulcan, with tools and with tackles,
To knocke off my troublesome shackles;
Bid Charles make ready his waine
To fetch me my senses againe.

Last night I heard the dog-star bark;
Mars met Venus in the darke;
Limping Vulcan het an iron barr,
And furiouslye made at the god of war:

Mars with his weapon laid about,
But Vulcan's temples had the gout,
For his broad horns did so hang in his light,
He could not see to aim his blowes aright:

Mercurye, the nimble post of heaven,
Stood still to see the quarrell;
Gorrel-bellyed Bacchus, gyant-like,
Bestryd a strong-beere barrell.

To mee he dranke,
I did him thanke,
But I could get no cyder;
He dranke whole butts
Till he burst his gutts,
But mine were ne'er the wyder.

Poore naked Tom is very drye:
A little drinke for charitye!
Harke, I hear Acteon's home!
The huntsmen whoop and hallowe:
Ringwood, Royster, Bowman, Jowler,
All the chase do followe.

The man in the moone drinkes clarret,
Eates powder'd beef, turnip, and carret,
But a cup of old Malaga sack
Will fire the bushe at his backe.


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