Yello80s Advent countdown: Day 15: Good King Wenceslas

English: King Wenceslas of Bohemia and Poland ...
English: King Wenceslas of Bohemia and Poland (fragment), Toruń Old Town Hall Polski: Król Wacław Czeski (fragment), Ratusz Staromiejski w Toruniu (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The story of King Wenceslas is an old one and an allegory of the LORD G-d’s humbling Himself to come to humankind disguised as an infant (different denominations believe variations on the deity / human duality but I’m going to use the term disguised here). He was an actual 10th century Bohemian duke who was sainted and considered a martyr. He was given the title as king after death by Roman Emperor Otto I and people of the Middle Ages would have understood this to be a title of ‘righteous kingship.’ There was an actual King Wenceslas in the royal sense several centuries after the one mentioned in the carol.  My favourite bit is the very end of the last verse: Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,  Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.  I actually favour the Mormon Tabernacle Choir version but stumbled across Judy Collins’ recording last year and wanted to include that here.  BTW, the feast of St. Stephen is on December 26, also celebrated as Boxing Day.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel

“Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know’st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither.”
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind’s wild lament
And the bitter weather

“Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Courtesy Cleopatra Records

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