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athgarvan

Good King Wenceslas

Isn't is a coincidence that the Czech Republic at present is bidding farewell to their well-loved retired President Václav Havel just as Carol-singers around the world are remembering another great Czech - "Good King Wenceslas" - who was also called Václav.  The carol is about a king who goes out to give alms to a poor peasant on St. Stephen's Day. During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king's footprints, step for step, through the deep snow. The legend is based on the life of the historical St. Wenceslas I, Duke of Bohemia (907 - 935), known in the Czech language as Václav. St.Wenceslas is the patron saint of the Czech Republic. These lyrics are from J. M. Neale (1853)  
 
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 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 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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcmBjwNiYck
 

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