Saturday, April 27, 2019

X-Mas Carol for Good King Wenceslas


The 26 eclectic-genre short stories for my #AtoZChallenge are excerpts from travelogue notes by
novel character Gahlen, who first appeared in SHARDS OF MEMORY – Oral History in a Heartbeat.

Each A-to-Z daily post is a complete, stand-alone tale.

By engraving by Brothers Dalziel -, Public Domain,

Genre: Musical History
(319 WORDS) + song lyrics

Singing carols on the eve of Christmas is a holiday tradition. Relatives who emigrated from Bohemia sing the Christmas Carol “Good King Wenceslas.” Ancestors christened Wenceslas were named for the man who ruled as duke of Bohemia from 921. After the duke was assassinated by his brother Boleslaw in 935, he was declared a saint within the Catholic Church.
Wenceslas, also known as Vaclav the Good, is the Patron Saint of the Czech Republic. His day is celebrated on September 28. But the Feast of St. Stephen, a martyr mentioned in the song Good King Wenceslas, is celebrated on December 26 so the carol is sung for the Christmas holiday.
Children of the era recited by heart the lyrics of John Mason Neale’s work, published in 1853. The song opens on St. Stephen’s Day, also known as The Feast of Stephen. This holy day is celebrated in most of the Germanic states of Europe, as well as in Ireland, and in Canada where it is known as Boxing Day.

Stephen, once a stable boy, became a deacon of the church and distributed alms from community funds to church widows. Dissatisfaction arose over alleged slights in distribution, and strong disagreement with Stephen’s teachings. This culminated in his death warrant, that of public stoning, around AD 34. Whether he died at the north end of Jerusalem or the east, St. Stephen’s Gate now honors his memory on the east side of the city.

According to the song’s lyrics:
King Wenceslas demonstrates to his page the act of giving by collecting food and wine and logs for burning. These he will deliver, in the dead of winter, to a needy family living in the woods. When the young page complains of his difficulty in navigating the deep snow, he is directed to walk in the footprints made by the king. The page perseveres and learns that helping others brings blessings upon himself.


by John Mason Neale

Good King Wenceslas looked out,
On the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about,
Deep and crisp and even.

Brightly shown the moon that night,
Though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
Gathering winter fuel.

Hither, page, and stand by me,
If thou know 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 the 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 step he trod,
Where the snow lay dented.
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

No longer copyrighted, John Mason Neale's words
are now in the public domain



  1. I've sung it countless times, but until now I had no idea of the story that lay behind it!

    My A-Z of Children's Stories

    1. That is the way of so many songs, Keith. What will be the words of our "swan song" come Tuesday, I wonder?

  2. A great Christmas carol, and I also like PDQ Bach's parody, "Good King Kong."

  3. One of my favorites. It makes so many pictures in my mind.
    I didn't know the story of St. Stephen.

    1. That's what I enjoy about researching a story, Kristin. I learn so much along the way.

  4. Have been enjoying your stories even though I haven't had time to comment on all of them... thank you for coming over to my blog... I'll be adding yours to my reading list! Almost done, #atozchallenge

    1. Thank you. Yes, heading to that great Z in the sky . . . or something! I'll be back on Monday to visit your "Y".

  5. I had no idea. It's amazing how many stories and things that have been around for centuries have such harrowing tales behind them.

  6. Certainly plenty of martyrs to write about from centuries past, Liz. That would probably make a good topic for a future AtoZChallenge. Maybe a bit depressing, though.

  7. The Christmas Carol “Good King Wenceslas,” is one of my favourites from way back in my childhood in England - possibly as we had an Austrian couple as servants; so we heard carols in German. I knew some of the background but many of the details were forgotten. Good reminder.


Aloha and thank you for visiting today! All comments are welcome.
For those who prefer to comment via email: