Tom a Bedlam

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Tom a Bedlam (For a Bass alone)
by William Basse

A "mad song" sung by Tom-a-Bedlam, the archetype of a madman. The poem is referred to in Izaak Walton's Compleat Angler, though it is not entirely certain that this is Basse's version of Tom-a-Bedlam's mad song. It was set to music by John Cooper.[1]

Forth from the dark and dismal Cell,
Or from the deep abyss of Hell,
Mad Tom is come to view the World again.
To see if he can Cure his distempered Brain:

Fears and Cares oppress my Soul;
Hark, how the angry Furies howl;
Pluto laughs, and Proserpine is glad.
To see poor angry Tom of Bedlam mad.

Through the World I wander night and day,
To find my straggling Senses,
In an angry mood I met Old Time
With his Pentateuch of Tenses;

When me he spies
Away he flies.
For Time will stay for no man;
In vain with cries,
I rend the Skies,
For Pity is not common.

Cold and comfortless I lie,
Help, help, oh help, or else I die!
Hark, I hear Apollo's Team,
The Carman 'gins to whistle;
Chaste Diana bends her Bow,
And the Boar begins to bristle.
Come Vulcan with Tools and with Tackles,
To knock off my troublesome shackles:
Bid Charles make ready his Wain,
To bring me my Senses again.

Last Night I heard the Dog-star bark,
Mars met Venus in the Dark;
Limping Vulcan heat an Iron Bar,
And furiously made at the great God of War.

Mars with his weapon laid about.
Limping Vulcan had got the Gout;
His broad Horns did hang so in his light.
That he could not see to aim his blows aright.

Mercury the nimble Post of Heaven
Stood still to see the Quarrel;
Gorrel-bellied Bacchus, Giant-like,
Bestrid a Strong-beer Barrel:

To me he Drank,
I did him thank.
But I could drink no Cider;
He drank whole Butts,
'Till he burst his Guts,
But mine was ne'er the wider.

Poor Tom is very Dry;
A little Drink, for Charity:
Hark ! I hear Actaeon’s Hounds,
The Huntsman Hoops and Hollows;
Ringwood, Rockwood, Jowler, Bowman,
All the Chase doth follow.

The Man in the Moon drinks Claret,
Eats Powdered-Beef, Turnip, and Carrot:
But a Cup of Malligo Sack
Will fire the Bush at his Back.

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.



  1. Warwick Bond, R., The Poetical Works of William Basse, London: Bell, 1893, pp.133-4.