The Anonymous Vicar

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An all time favorite poem.

       How and why do I love The Vicar of Bray?   Let me count the ways.
First, we have that intriguing author. No mythic background, no poetic baggage associated with the name: Anonymous.  The interest and the significance must come purely through the reading and the understanding of it. This brings us to the actual content of the poem, its message. The Vicar only pays out his jackpot to Anglophiles who know something about England’s political and ecclesiastical history. It is not for everyone; I can’t imagine a non-Anglophile getting much out of this poem. But the catalyst for me (ha ha) is the absurd image of the poor feline being basted in an oven. I don’t know if it was a popular idiom of the day, but I found it arresting and absurdly hilarious all at once. And of course there is the rollicking and regular rhythm, complemented by the recurring refrain. Was it a song originally rather than mere verse ? Probably.

There is much to be gleaned in the poetic fields of context, but I loved this poem even before the internet. George Orwell knew the Vicar too !

 

The Vicar of Bray

Anonymous  (1730s ?)

In good King Charles’s golden days,
When Loyalty no harm meant;
A Furious High-Church man I was,
And so I gain’d Preferment.
Unto my Flock I daily Preached,
Kings are by God appointed,
And Damn’d are those who dare resist,
Or touch the Lord’s Anointed.

And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
That whatsoever King may reign,
I shall be Vicar of Bray, Sir!

When Royal James possessed the crown,
And popery grew in fashion;
The Penal Law I hooted down,
And read the Declaration:
The Church of Rome I found would fit
Full well my Constitution,
And I had been a Jesuit,
But for the Revolution.

  And this is Law, &c.

When William our Deliverer came,Cat in Pan
To heal the Nation’s Grievance,
I turned the Cat in Pan again,
And swore to him Allegiance:
Old Principles I did revoke,
Set conscience at a distance,
Passive Obedience is a Joke,
A Jest is non-resistance.

  And this is Law, &c.

When Royal Ann became our Queen,
Then Church of England’s Glory,
Another face of things was seen,
And I became a Tory:
Occasional Conformists base
I Damn’d, and Moderation,
And thought the Church in danger was,
From such Prevarication.

  And this is Law, &c.

 When George in Pudding time came o’er,
And Moderate Men looked big, Sir,
My Principles I changed once more,
And so became a Whig, Sir.
And thus Preferment I procured,
From our Faith’s great Defender,
And almost every day abjur’d
The Pope, and the Pretender.

  And this is Law, &c.

 The Illustrious House of Hanover,
And Protestant succession,
To these I lustily will swear,
Whilst they can keep possession:
For in my Faith, and Loyalty,
I never once will falter,
But George, my lawful king shall be,
Except the Times should alter.

  And this is Law, &c.

 

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2 comments on “The Anonymous Vicar

  1. LOL! Thank you, I’ve never heard that before. Frolicking good fun, indeed.

    Liked by 1 person

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