Merry Christmas

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, tho’ 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 shall 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, good my 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.

Good King Wenceslas spotted a poor man who was struggling to pay for “heating and eating”: he was gathering fuel in the snow. So the king purposed to help the poor man by providing him with a feast. He took with him his page on this errand. The page’s feet were cold: perhaps he had no shoes or inadequate footwear. So the king invited the page to walk in his footsteps such that the ground was less cold. The carol alludes to a miracle – that the ground under the king’s footprints heated up for the page to walk on.

The carol tells a story of good kingship: of caring for the poor – and caring for employees. No good employee should pay such low wages to their staff that it is left to the charity of others to feed and clothe them. And a good king takes care of the poor within his kingdom. We could do with more leaders like Wenceslas.