The Vicar Of Bray

Original Text: 
Brit. Musical Miscellany Vol. 1 (London: I. Walsh, 1734). micf Fisher Rare Book Library
1In good King Charles's golden days,
2    When loyalty no harm meant;
3A furious High-Church man I was,
4    And so I gain'd preferment.
5Unto my flock I daily preach'd,
6    Kings are by God appointed,
7And damn'd are those who dare resist,
8    Or touch the Lord's anointed.
9      And this is law, I will maintain
10      Unto my dying day, sir,
11      That whatsoever king shall reign,
12      I will be Vicar of Bray, sir!
13When Royal James possess'd the crown,
14    And popery grew in fashion;
17The Church of Rome, I found would fit,
18    Full well my constitution,
19And I had been a Jesuit,
20    But for the Revolution.
21      And this is law, I will maintain
22      Unto my dying day, sir,
23      That whatsoer king shall reign,
24      I will be Vicar of Bray, sir!
25When William our deliverer came,
26    To heal the nation's grievance,
28    And swore to him allegiance:
29Old principles I did revoke,
30    Set conscience at a distance,
32    A jest is non-resistance.
33      And this is law, I will maintain
34      Unto my dying day, sir,
35      That whatsoer king shall reign,
36      I will be Vicar of Bray, sir!
37When glorious Anne became our queen
38    The Church of England's glory,
39Another face of things was seen,
40    And I became a Tory:
42    I damn'd, and moderation,
43And thought the Church in danger was,
44    From such prevarication.
45      And this is law, I will maintain
46      Unto my dying day, sir,
47      That whatsoer king shall reign,
48      I will be Vicar of Bray, sir!
50    And moderate men looked big, sir,
51My principles I chang'd once more,
52    And so became a Whig, sir:
53And thus preferment I procur'd,
54    From our faith's great defender,
55And almost every day abjur'd
57      And this is law, I will maintain
58      Unto my dying day, sir,
59      That whatsoer king shall reign,
60      I will be Vicar of Bray, sir!
61The illustrious House of Hanover,
62    And Protestant succession,
63To these I lustily will swear,
64    Whilst they can keep possession:
65For in my faith, and loyalty,
66    I never once will falter,
67George, my lawful king shall be,
68    Except the times should alter.
69      And this is law, I will maintain
70      Unto my dying day, sir,
71      That whatsoer king shall reign,
72      I will be Vicar of Bray, sir!


15] penal law. The Test Act of 1673, which provided that everyone employed by the government in any capacity had to take an oath against transubstantiation and receive the sacrament according to the rites of the Church of England, thereby excluding Roman Catholics. James I tried to dispense with this statute. Back to Line
16] The Declaration of Indulgence, suspending the Test Act, issued by James I in 1687. The refusal of the clergy to read this Declaration from their pulpits was one of the most critical of the events leading to the Revolution of 1688. Back to Line
27] cat in pan. To "turn the cat in pan" is to confuse opponents by suddenly adopting a contrary position. The proverb is as old as Wyclif. Back to Line
31] passive obedience. Non-resistance to the authority of the King was the chief doctrine of the Tory or Royalist party, which favoured the Stuart dynasty, while the Whigs, who supported William III, stood for constitutional monarchy. Back to Line
41] occasional conformists. Dissenters who evaded the Test Act by occasionally receiving the sacrament according to Anglican rites. The Occasional Conformity Bill, passed through Tory influence in 1711, was directed against this. Back to Line
49] pudding time. To "come in pudding time" is to come at the right motion. Back to Line
56] Pretender. The Old Pretender, James Stuart, son of James II, in exile in France and claimant to the crownof England. He was consistently a Roman Catholic, hence his association with the Pope. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP.1.678; RPO 1996-2000.