I sing of human dignity
whose absence can be seen
through lens of foul reality
within Mad Magazine !
The foibles of America,
the hubris and the glory
the paunch, the slouch, the bad-hair lives,
the real plebeian story.
Bruegel’s mobs and Ensor’s masks
improved, enhanced, updated
on comic page, until one asks:
is painting overrated?
Beardsley, Hogarth, masters all—
and acid-etched our race;
but unkind pure hilarious truth
beams forth from Alfred’s face.
The dolts, the clods, the leering fools,
the sociopathic clowns,
glitter like fractured plastic jewels
in Walmart-purchased crowns.
Alfred Neuman has the goods.
The lash, at first, feels bad
when whips of satire welt our back.
Behold the man: he’s MAD !
The good thing is that
You can crank a Haiku out
while you’re half asleep
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.