|Looking out at Fogland's winter fields of green, instead of white, on this December morning.|
Frankly, I have always loved the melody of this English Christmas carol; but beyond the first few lines, I never learned the rest. Reading the words, which relate a lovely medieval tale, I now understand why. The cadence and old English dialect sound confusing, making the story difficult to grasp.
So here is my retelling of the allegorical tale.
“Good King Wenceslas looked out / On the feast of Stephen, / When the snow lay round about. / Deep and crisp and even;”
The king peers out from the parapet of his castle on St. Stephen’s Day, December 26, which overlooks his snow-covered kingdom. The feast day of the saint is known as Boxing Day in Britain, and historically, provisions are provided as gifts to the poor.
“Brightly shone the moon that night, / Though the frost was cruel, / When a poor man came in sight, / Gathering winter fuel.”
The king notices a man in the distance weathering the elements to gather firewood.
“Hither, page, and stand by me, / If thou know’st it, telling, / Yonder peasant, who is he? / Where and what his dwelling?”
He asks his young servant about the man and where he lives.
“Bring me flesh and fruit so fine, / Bring me pine logs hither, / Thou and I will see him dine, / When we bear them thither.”
The king orders the page to collect foodstuffs and firewood that they will deliver to the poor man and his family.
“Page and monarch forth they went, / Forth they went together, / Through the rude wind’s wild lament / And the bitter weather.”
As monarch, he can command an envoy to carry out his wishes; yet he and the boy set out alone in the storm.
“Sire, the night is darker now / And the wind grows stronger; / Fails my heart I know not how; / I can go no longer.”
The young servant falters, unable to complete his task.
“Mark my footsteps good, my page; / Tread thou in them boldly; / Thou shalt find the winter’s rage / Freeze thy blood less coldly.”
The king orders him to follow in his footsteps.
“In his master’s steps he trod / Where the snow lay dinted; / Heat was in the very sod / Which the saint had printed.”
His feet miraculously warm with each step.
Therefore Christians, all be sure, / Wealth or rank possessing, / Ye who now will bless the poor, / Shall yourselves find blessing.”
God (the king) is always with us, accompanying us on life’s journey. He rewards our kindness to others by showering us with His blessings.
Happy Christmas to all!