On the Feast of Stephen: Good King Wenceslas

Today is December 26 and the Feast of Stephen, which is the occasion for one of my favorite Christmas carols: “Good King Wenceslas.”

In the famous carol, King Wenceslas spots a poor man on the “Feast of Stephen” (Dec 26) and instructs his page to bring meat and wine in order to bless the poor man. I love the tune because of it’s manly cadence and melody – it inspires one to start toasting and sloshing a growler of ale.

The video below has the Bing Crosby version – which is not as spirited as I like to sing it, but it’s still pretty good. This Bing version is the one I remember hearing at home on the record player as child.

Saint Wenceslas (d. 935) is a Catholic martyr known for his love for the poor and his secret night vigils before the altar of the Blessed Sacrament. The last line of the carol captures the intent of the song and the true example of Saint Wenceslas:

Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Below are all the words to the carol. Since today (Dec 26) is “the feast of Stephen,” why not singing with your family tonight before Rosary or bedtime?

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 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 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 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

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