Good King Wenceslas: English Carol, Czech Tale



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 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, Christians, All, be sure

– Wealth or rank possessing –

Ye who now will bless the poor

Shall yourselves find blessing !





John Mason Neale wrote the lyrics for this English carol

in 1853.  He based them upon a translation of the story

“Sankt Wenceslaw und Podiwin”, written in

1847 by Czech nationalist poet, Václav Alois Svoboda.

The name Václav is, in fact, Wenceslas in its original Czech.


Wenceslas was real;  he lived from 907 to 935, was the first

generation of his family to be Christianized, and became

Duke of Bohemia.  Known for his piety and kindness, still he

came to a gory end at the hands of his brother Boleslaw (urged

on by their mother).

A cult of Wenceslas spread quickly after his death – later seen

as a martyrdom – and he became a prime example of what in

the High Middle Ages would be called rex justus – the righteous

king – a monarch whose power derives from moral goodness

not brute force.

He is the patron saint of The Czech Republic, where he is known

as Svatý Václav (Saint Wenceslas).


* The Czech version of the carol is featured above. *