Bedlam
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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Lyrics
Songs of madness were extremely popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. (See Through Moorfields for another tune and information.) Tom O'Bedlam, one of the earliest documented, was presented at court in 1618. The Maid in Bedlam (see link to Bruce Olsen's site below) dates to the 18th century. It is based on an earlier tune, of The Black's Lamentation [in Bedlam], circa 1735-40.

Bedlam was the commonly used name of Bethlehem Royal hospital which housed the insane. The hospital was originally (1247) a priory for the order of St. Mary of Bethlehem (Bedlam being an abbreviation of Bethlehem). During the 18th century it was a popular diversion to visit the hospital to watch the antics of the poor inmates. Admission was one penny and it is said the hospital realized an income of four hundred pounds a year from visitors.

Abroad I was walking
One morning in the Spring,
I heard a maid in Bedlam
So sweetly she did sing;
Her chains she rattled in her hands,
And always so sang she.
I love my love
Because I know he first loved me.

My love he was sent from me
By friends that were unkind;
They sent him far beyond the seas
All to torment my mind.
Although I've suffer'd for his sake,
Content will I be, for
I love my love
Because I know he first loved me.

My love he'll not come near me
To hear the moan I make,
And neither would he pity me
If my poor heart should break,
But, though I've suffer'd for his sake,
Contented will I be, For
I love my love
Because I know he first loved me.

I said: My dearest Johnny,
Are you my love or no?
He said, My dearest Nancy,
I've proved our overthrow;
But though you've suffer'd for my sake,
Contented will I be, For
I love my love
Because I know he first loved me.

Related Links
From One Hundred English Folksongs
See Bibliography for full information.

And The Mudcat Cafe.