Magazine article The Spectator

Shape-Shifter

Magazine article The Spectator

Shape-Shifter

Article excerpt

In Competition 2628 you were invited to submit a contemporary version of the 18th-century satirical song 'The Vicar of Bray'.

The model for the Vicar was purported to be Simon Aleyn, a 16th-century parish priest of Bray, who hung on to office by cheerfully reinventing himself to fit in with the prevailing orthodoxy. He found a defender, though, in the 1930s, in the shape of George Orwell, who was moved, by a magnificent yew he had planted in the churchyard at Bray, to write in an essay entitled 'A Good Word for the Vicar of Bray', 'a beautiful tree, which has rested the eyes of generation after generation and must surely have outweighed any bad effects which he produced by his political quislingism'.

Thanks to Victoria Lane for suggesting this competition, which produced a colourful cast of contemporary chameleons. Commendations go to Gillian Ewing and Dr G.W. Tapper, while the winners, printed below, earn £25 each.

Gerard Benson gets the bonus fiver.

In Bishop Ramsay's wondrous days

When clergy were all men, Sir,

A sound male chauvinist I was;

Full well I flourished then, Sir.

Then, when the lady clerics came

My views I swiftly altered,

I worshipped under man or dame,

And rose, and never faltered.

But when a Yankee bishop, next,

Emerged from out the closet

I made Gay Lib my preaching text;

That wasn't daft, now, was it?

Now there's a woman bishop, who

Is keen on other women.

Of this I'm all in favour, too

I'll ne'er have done with trimming.

Gerard Benson

In Thatcher's happy, halcyon days

The Sun shone right behind her:

With Brussels-bashing, Bullish praise

I hailed and then enshrined her.

(Chorus) Oh, I control the Sun and Sky,

My match there never was, sir.

I know who's who and what and why,

For I am the Digger from Oz, sir.

When Major sank, I sensed what rose

Would work well in my favour;

And though I sometimes held my nose

I liked Blair's gamy savour. (Chorus)

But when the red rose turned to Brown --

In every sense a clunker --

I jumped before the lot went down

And left him in his bunker. (Chorus)

W.J. Webster

In trendy times when Tony ruled,

Rejecting the absurd way,

He wisely had me three times schooled

And led me down the third way.

(Refrain) And this the rule: who rules the day

I'll laud upon my knees, sir.

But in my own respectful way

Will do just as I please, sir! …

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