I just posted Tom O’Bedlam which I first encountered in the New Oxford Book of English Verse under the title Loving Mad Tom. I learned a lot as I linked the page to interesting sites. I also recalled a book I read as a child where one character was feigning madness to spy on some people. He kept repeating “Puir Tam, Puir Tam, don’t hurt Puir Tam…”
I realize now that was a reference to the same persona.
If any of you read this story in your childhood, send me the name of it please. There seems to be a lot of Scottish tie-ins to this Poor Tom character. [Click on the link in the Chorus to see]
There is much obscure vocabulary in the poem, very specific to England in the 17th century. I never knew “Bedlam” was derived from the word Bethlehem. Like The Vicar of Bray, another great anonymous English poem, this one conjures up images from Hogarth’s etchings.