Good King Wenceslas was written in 1853 by the Englishman John Mason Neale. The tune is from “Tempus Adest Floridum”, a spring carol from the 13th Century.
Good King Wenceslas has become a Christmas song, even though it sings about St. Stephen’s Day, which is the day after Christmas.
Wenceslas was born in 907. He was actually the Duke of Bohemia, not a king. Bohemia is now an area of the Czech Republic.
The story of “King” Wenceslas is a sad one. When he was 13 his father was killed in battle. His mother, Drahomira, became the ruler of Bohemia. She seems to have been a pagan. His grandmother taught Wenceslas Christian ideals. His mother was threatened by this and had his grandmother killed. Two years later she was deposed in an uprising and King Wenceslas became the ruler of Bohemia. He was said to be an honest, kind man. He even allowed his mother to move back into the castle with him. Unfortunately, his evil brother Boleslav murdered him in 929.
King Wenceslas eventually became a saint.
Here are the lyrics to Good King Wenceslas and an mp3 recording…
Good King Wenceslas
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
Gathering winter fuel.
“Hither, page, and stand by me
If you 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
You 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 you in them boldly
You shall find the winter’s rage
Freeze your 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
You who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.
This article was posted on Thursday, December 8th, 2005 at 10:52 pm and is filed under British Children's Songs, Christmas, Christmas Songs, Countries & Cultures, English, Good King Wenceslas, Holiday Songs, Holidays Around the World, Languages, Songs by Theme, United Kingdom. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
2 Responses to “Good King Wenceslas – A Carol”
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December 19th, 2005 at 12:29 am
Good King Wenceslas is an family tradition of heart and foot – song and deed. Our small family grows each year as souls return to Our Master and Savior.
May 22nd, 2011 at 4:47 am
Thanks for the words. I remember singing this song every christmas at school, but didn’t remember the verse. I didn’t know the story. At church christmas pageants each year, this song is done alcapella by an older baritone male and a young boy. Now I know why. Its always been a favorite.