Good King Wenceslas lyrics
The Irish Rovers
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 knows't it telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence,
Underneath a mountain,
Right against the forest fence,
By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”
“Bring me mead and bring me wine,
Bring me pine logs hither,
Thou and I will see him dine,
When we bear them 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.
Lyrics: John Mason Neale in collaboration with his music editor Thomas Helmore in 1853.
Music: Set to the tune of a 13th-century spring carol "Tempus adest floridum" (The time is near for flowering) first published in 1582 from the Finnish song collection - Piae Cantiones.
John Mason Neale
Born: 24th January, 1818 in London, England
Died: 6th August, 1866 (aged 48) in East Grinstead, England
Profession: Anglican priest, scholar and hymnwriter.
Born: 7th May, 1811 in Kidderminster - a town in Worcestershire, England,
Died: 6th July, 1890 (aged 79) in Westminster, England,
Profession: Choirmaster, writer about singing, author and editor of hymns and carols.
Good King Wenceslas tells the story of a kind and compassionate Bohemian king, Wenceslas I of Bohemia (907-935 AD), who was later canonized as a saint due to his virtuous deeds and Christian faith.
The carol opens on the feast of St. Stephen, which falls on December 26th, the day after Christmas. King Wenceslas looks out of his palace and sees a poor peasant gathering firewood in the harsh winter snow. Filled with empathy and Christian charity, the king decides to bring help to the needy man.
He instructs his page to gather food, wine, and firewood, and they follow the king's lead through the deep snow. The journey is treacherous, and the page begins to falter, feeling the cold and the struggle of walking through the storm. However, Wenceslas encourages him to persevere, following in the king's footsteps and the warmth of his footsteps.
Upon reaching the peasant's humble dwelling, Wenceslas presents the provisions, bringing comfort and joy to the poor man and his family. The carol concludes with a reminder that Christ, the ultimate embodiment of compassion and love, blesses those who show kindness to the less fortunate.
"Good King Wenceslas" is a hymn of charity and goodness, emphasizing the Christian values of helping those in need and spreading kindness during the Christmas season. The carol not only celebrates the historical figure of King Wenceslas but also embodies the spirit of generosity and selflessness that is synonymous with the Christmas season.