Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. IX. Tragedy: Humor
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume IX. Tragedy: Humor.  1904.
Humorous Poems: II. Miscellaneous
The Vicar of Bray
IN 1 good King Charles’s golden days,
  When loyalty no harm meant,
A zealous high-churchman was I,
  And so I got preferment.
To teach my flock I never missed:        5
  Kings were by God appointed,
And lost are those that dare resist
  Or touch the Lord’s anointed.
    And this is law that I ’ll maintain
      Until my dying day, sir,        10
    That whatsoever king shall reign,
      Still I ’ll be the Vicar of Bray, sir.
When royal James possessed the crown,
  And popery came in fashion,
The penal laws I hooted down,        15
  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, etc.
When William was our king declared,
  To ease the nation’s grievance;
With this new wind about I steered,
  And swore to him allegiance;
Old principles I did revoke,        25
  Set conscience at a distance;
Passive obedience was a joke,
  A jest was non-resistance.
    And this is law, etc.
When royal Anne became our queen,
  The Church of England’s glory,        30
Another face of things was seen,
  And I became a Tory;
Occasional conformists base,
  I blamed their moderation;
And thought the Church in danger was,        35
  By such prevarication.
    And this is law, etc.
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;        40
And thus preferment I procured
  From our new faith’s-defender,
And almost every day adjured
  The Pope and the Pretender.
    And this is law, etc.
The illustrious house of Hanover,        45
  And Protestant succession,
To these I do allegiance swear—
  While they can keep possession:
For in my faith and loyalty
  I nevermore will falter,        50
And George my lawful king shall be—
  Until the times do alter.
    And this is law that I ’ll maintain
      Until my dying day, sir,
    That whatsoever king shall reign,        55
      Still I ’ll be the Vicar of Bray, sir.
Note 1. “The Vicar of Bray in Berkshire, England, was Simon Alleyn, or Allen, who held his place from 1540 to 1588. He was a Papist under the reign of Henry the Eighth, and a Protestant under Edward the Sixth. He was a Papist again under Mary, and once more became a Protestant in the reign of Elizabeth. When this scandal to the gown was reproached for his versatility of religious creeds, and taxed for being a turn-coat and an inconstant changeling, as Fuller expresses it, he replied: ‘Not so neither; for if I changed my religion, I am sure I kept true to my principle, which is to live and die the Vicar of Bray.’”—DISRAELI. [back]

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