“A Maid in Bedlam”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1787 (Scots Musical Museum)
Keywords: madness betrayal love rescue
Found in: Britain(England) US(MW)


The singer hears a woman in Bedlam lamenting. She went mad when friends sent her lover away. In some versions, she reproaches him with this but continues to love him. In others, he returns and rescues her.

Supplemental text

Maid in Bedlam, A
  Partial text(s)

          *** A ***

The Maid in Bedlam

From James Johnson, "The Scots Musical Museum," Volume I, #46, pp.
46-47. As found in the 1853 edition (punctuation is somewhat uncertain,
given the state of the facsimile).

  One morning very early, one morning in the spring,
I heard a maid in Bedlam, who mournfully did sing;
Her chains she rattl'd on her hands, while sweetly thus sung she,
  I love my love, because I know, my love love me.

  Oh! cruel were his parents, who sent my love to sea;
And cruel, cruel was the ship that bore my love from me,
Yet I love my parents, since they're his, although they've ruined me,
  For I love my love, &c.

(6 additional stanzas)


Bethlehem Hospital ("Bedlam") was the first hospital in London for patients with mental illnesses. It was for men, I believe; Magdalene Hospital ("Maudlin"), established somewhat later, was for women. - PJS

Roud has at least three numbers meeting the general description for "A Maid In Bedlam" (Roud #605). The #605 broadsides are listed above. Their description is: The singer, wlking in Moorfields, hears an inmate girl complain that her parents had her apprentice lover sent to sea which "has distracted my brain." The sailor returns and bribes the porter and rescues her. They marry and he gives the "unworthy parents" a tongue-lashing.

Roud #575 is represented by the following broadsides. Their description is: The singer hears "a Maid in Bedlam" rattling her chains and complaining that her lover's parents had him sent to sea. She prays that if she die she might claim "a guardian angel's charge, around my Love to fly" She tells what she would do were she a flower garland, nightingale, or eagle, to be with her lover.

Bodleian, Harding B 14(34), "The Maid in Bedlam" ("One morning, very early, one morning in the spring"), Fowler (Salisbury), 1770-1800; also Firth c.18(139), "The Maid of Bedlam"

Roud #968 is represented by the following broadsides. Their description is: The singer hears an inmate maiden complain that Billy is her love and they are separated by her parents. She thinks of flying to his side and seeing him die on the battlefield. She sees him coming "in the cloud With guardian angels standing round him"

Bodleian, Harding B 28(92), "Bedlam City" ("Down by the side of Bedlam city"), W. Armstrong (Liverpool), 1820-1824; also Firth c.18(140)[some lines illegible], 2806 c.18(197)[only the first verse and chorus are legible], Harding B 28(273), Harding B 25(155), 2806 c.17(26), Firth c.19(186), "Bedlam City"

The following broadside, only slightly modified from the Roud #968 broadsides above, has been, according to its printer, "altered from the vulgar ballad."

Bodleian, Johnson Ballads fol. 26, "Bedlam City" ("Down by Bedlam I walk'd one ev'ning"), J. Catnach (London), 1813-1838

There are at least three similar broadsides not yet assigned a Roud number.

In one "Amelia's Complaint": Amelia's is in chains because her father sent her sailor away where, she thinks, he was slain. Her mind wanders as she cannot make ouut what approaches. She prays to die.

Bodleian, Harding B 25(43), "Amelia's Complaint, in Bedlam for the Loss of her Sailor" ("Young women with attention listen to what I mention"), G. Pigott (London) , n.d.

In another "Amelia's Complaint": Amelia's lover is imprest to fight in the war She prays that the war will end. If he is slain she'll be undone forever. She'll be true."

Bodleian, Harding B 25(41), "Amelia's Complaint for the Loss of Young Edward" ("Young lovers all awhile attend")[some words illegible], J. Jennings (London), 1790-1840

In "Pity a Maiden": "They" have imprest Billy and sent him over the sea. If he returns she will be free of Bedlam and her chains. She thinks of being with Billy and sends him a letter by a friend saying that she hopes they will meet again.

Bodleian, 2806 c.18(246), "Pity a Maiden" ("Pity an innocent maiden in Bedlam I lay confin'd"), J. Pitts (London), 1802-1819

Opie-Oxford2: "In 1675 the Old Bethlem Hospital was moved to Moorfields" - BS

Cross references




  1. Sharp-100E 41, "Bedlam" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Logan, pp. 187-188, "Bedlam City, or The Maiden's Lamentation" (1 text, part of the longer entry "Tom a Bedlam")
  3. Gardner/Chickering 65, "A Maid in Bedlam" (1 text, very possibly from print)
  4. BBI, ZN670, "Come maidens all and pity me"; ZN3182, "Young maidens all, pray pity me, and think of my extremity"
  5. ST ShH41 (Partial)
  6. Roud #605
  7. BI, ShH41