Living History & Reenactment Music

Musical Rambles Through History © by Sara L. Johnson

Yet More of The Vicar of Bray
"And this is law that I'll maintain until my dying day, sir,
That whatsoever king shall reign, I'll be the Vicar of Bray, sir."

In a previous article about the song The Vicar of Bray, I mentioned that this popular song had its words changed to suit many occasions, including a Revolutionary War song. The original song was written about Bray's most famous Vicar, Simon Aleyn. "He was a Papist under the reign of Henry VIII, and a Protestant under Edward VI; he was a Papist again under Mary, and once more became a Protestant in the reign of Elizabeth. When reproached for his lack of principles, he replied: 'Not so, 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.' "

And now, my favorite version of The Vicar of Bray, a history of the English monarchy through alcoholic beverages. And if you missed the tune the first time round, here's the tune again, with these words, from The Convivial Songster, Being a Select Collection of the Best Songs In the English Language; Humourous, Satirical, Bacchanalian &c.&c.&c., printed in London in 1782 for John Fielding:

1. In Charles the Second's merry days, For wanton frolic noted, A lover of cabals I was, With wine like Bacchus bloated. I preached unto my crowded pews, Wine was by God's command, sir; And damn'd was he who did refuse to drink while he could stand, sir.
And this is law that I'll maintain until my dying day, sir,
That whatsoever king shall reign, I'll drink a gallon a day, sir.

2. When James the sot assumed the throne, He strove to stand alone, sir: But quickly got so drunk that down He tumbled from the throne, sir. One morning, crop-sick, pale, and queer, By sitting up with gay men, He reel'd to Rome, where priests severe Deny the cup to laymen.
And this is law, &c.

3. Then Will, the tippling Dutchman, sav'd Our liberties from sinking; We crowned him king of cups, and crav'd The privilege of thinking. He drank your Holland's gin, 'tis said, And held predestination: Fool! not to know the tippling trade Admits no trepidation
And this is law, &c.

4. When brandy Nan became our queen, 'Twas all a drunken story; I sat and drank from morn till e'en, And so was thought a tory. Brim full of wine, all sober folks We damn'd, and moderation,
And for right Nantz we pawn'd to France Our dearest reputation.
And this is law I will maintain For ever and for aye, sir:
That, whether king or queen shall reign, I'll drink a gallon a day, sir.

5. King George the First then fill'd the throne, And took the resolution To drink all sorts of liquors known, To save the constitution. He drank success, in rare old rum, Unto the state and church, sir. Till with a dose of Brunswick mum He dropp'd from off the perch, sir.
And this is law, &c.

6. King George the Second then arose, A wise and valiant soul, sir: He lov'd his people, beat his foes, And push'd about the bowl, sir. He drank his fill to Chatham Will, To heroes, for he chose 'em; With us true whigs he drank until He slept in Abraham's bosom.
And this is law, &c.

7. His present majesty then came, Whom heaven long preserve, sir; He glory'd in a Briton's name, And swore he'd never swerve, sir. Though evil counsellors may think His love for us to sever, Yet let us loyal Britons drink King George the Third for ever!
And this is law I will maintain For ever and aye, sir:
That whatsoever king shall reign, I'll drink both night and day, sir.