From the hag and hungry goblin
That into rags would rend ye,
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
– Tom O’ Bedlam’s song, Anonymous
The Pope is based on “Tom O’ Bedlam,” the (anti)hero of a 17th century ballad. The entire poem, being super-old and anonymous, is freely published on the internet (read it at The HyperTexts). Tom was an archetype of the Bedlamites, or Abram-men – beggars who claimed to be lunatics released from the Abraham ward of Bedlam Hospital to make their way in the world off the alms of strangers. (Evidently, even if Bedlam did have such a program, the number of Bedlam beggars greatly exceeded the number of actual patients.) They would dress in eye-catchingly insane outfits, featuring ribbons, fox-tails, and ox-horns. The narrator Tom has the aura of a crazed prophet, and here he preaches in the graveyard to drake and owl.
A clown dressed in rags stands in a graveyard, raising two fingers on his right hand in a sign of benediction and leaning on a tall staff in his left hand.
There are two gravestones in the foreground. The one on the left side of the card is topped with a cross and bears the name “Abram” under a five-pointed star. The one on the right side of the card has a picture of a five-pointed star and an upward-opening crescent moon emitting rays. A pale orange horned dragon sits on the left gravestone and looks up toward the clown. A brown owl with a white face sits on the right gravestone, turning its head backward to face the viewer.
The clown wears a wide-brimmed and scuffed brown hat with colorful ribbons and a brushy fox tail streaming from it. His hair is pale and ragged. His nose is painted red, his eyelids pale blue, and his cheeks brown with black triangles. He smiles slightly and looks to the right side of the card.
He wears a white horn tied with a red ribbon bow around his neck. He wears a rough tunic sewn in panels and patches of different colors and patterns: polka dots, stripes, and diamonds in brown, red, blue, green, yellow, and white. The ends of his clothing are all in long and jagged tatters. One of his skinny legs wearing a pointy red shoe is visible at the bottom of the card. The back of his right hand is marked with a cross. On his left hand he wears a blue glove and wrist cuff marked with the word “Bedlam.” The top of his staff is red and red, yellow, and green ribbons twist around it.