Tom O’Bedlam

Anonymous (circa 1634)

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 your selves with Tom

Abroad to beg your bacon.


(Chorus; sung after every verse)

While I do sing “any food, any feeding,

Feeding, drink or clothing,”

Come dame or maid, be not afraid,

Poor Tom will injure nothing.


Of thirty bare years have I

Twice twenty been enraged,

And of forty been three times fifteen

In durance soundly caged.

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 stripped me naked.


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 lonely owl my marrow,

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 comrades.

The punk I scorn and the cut purse sworn

And the roaring boys bravado.

The meek, the white, the gentle,

Me handle touch and spare not

But those that cross Tom Rynosseros

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 summoned am to tourney

Ten leagues beyond the wide world’s end.

Methinks it is no journey.

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