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A Modern Governor General

by Stephen Lautens

October 15, 1999

Do you ever get one of those songs running around in your head? Once I had Neil Diamond in there singing "Sweet Caroline" for a month. I'm lucky it never resulted in gunplay.

For the past week or so I've had a different tune running around in my head. The media has been gushing over Her Excellency Adrienne Clarkson. They've proclaimed her "Canada's first modern Governor General". That's my problem. Ever since then I haven't been able to get a tune out of my head. It made me think of "I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major-General" from Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance.

Gilbert & Sullivan were the "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" of the 19th Century. I'm sure there are amateur Gilbert & Sullivan societies still lurking in Canadian church halls and little theatre. They can tell you why something first put on more than a hundred years ago still shows up on The Simpsons. Let's see where Brittany Spears is in a century.

And so, to get a modern version of this tune out of my head, I've had to write it down. Sing along with me:

I am the very model of a modern Governor General,
My social pedigree is really fully unassailable.
An immigrant, a woman and person who is colourful,
Yet for my humble origins my behaviour's imperial.

And so in matters national and quasi-constitutional,
I am the very model of a modern Governor General.

My destiny has been to be a person most vice-regal,
After settling disputes with neighbours messily and legal.
The blessings of both Church and State we never felt we needed much,
But Rideau Hall is not a place for couples playing house, as such.

A Canadian Governor General cannot properly live in sin,
Refer to me as Madam, but whatever would you call him?
John Ralston Saul's speaking fees have recently gone up a touch,
A philosopher who's in demand cannot afford to lose a buck.

My novels written years ago are perfectly forgettable,
With characters and plots that are embarrassingly juvenile.
With heroes and my heroines named Raoul, Gretchen and Tiercel,
Still nothing as far-fetched as my becoming Governor General.

I'll be opening up Parliament and lunching with Elizabeth,
And wondering which tiny fork I should be eating the shrimp with.
Advising the Prime Minister on matters foreign and national,
And don't let anyone tell you my post is ceremonial.

Although not a politician I am learning how to play the game,
To smile and nod and breathe a sigh, and tell you all I feel your pain.
I'll emphasize my humble roots, and even shed a tear I might,
Especially when I find I have my new tiara on too tight.

Sauve, Massey, Michener, that other guy named Romeo,
Could learn a lot from me in how to best appear on video.
A darling of the media, they honor me from sea to sea,
It sure as heck is better than a cameo on the CBC.

As Governor General I will show that I can be just full of grace,
And if it gets too cold I'll throw a peasant on the fireplace.
I swear I'll keep my face out of that awful rag Frank Magazine,
And not give them a reason to keep calling me the "Queen of Mean".

A media icon I may be, still your respect I hope to earn,
Yet something tells me when I'm done it could be Mister Dressup's turn.
But still in matters national and quasi-constitutional,
I am the very model of a modern Governor General.

I feel better, but I don't think I'll be getting the Order of Canada anytime soon.

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