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 (which you may read by looking on the Brittania page above), this one conjures up images from Hogarth’s etchings.
Tell me if you like it.