In honor of December 26, St. Stephen’s feast day, I offer you “Good King Wenceslas,” a carol published by John Mason Neale in 1853. First, a paraphrase of the lyrics as found on Wikipedia.
On the night of St Stephen’s feast-day (26 Dec.) Good King Wenceslas looked out; snow lay all around, deep, and crisp, and level. The moon shone brightly though it was bitterly freezing when a poor man came into view, gathering firewood. “Come here, page, and stand next to me; tell me, if you know, who is that peasant over there? Where does he live and what is his dwelling?” “Sire, he lives at least a league [a variable measure of distance between 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 miles (4–7 1/2 km)] from here at the foot of the mountain next to the fence at the edge of the forest, by St Agnes’s Fountain [presumably a local landmark].” “Bring me meat and bring me wine; bring me pine logs here; you and I will see him eat when we carry them there.” The page and the king set out forth together through the loud crying of the wind and the bitter weather. “Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind is growing stronger. I don’t know why but my heart is weak; I can’t go any farther.” “Take note of my footprints (in the snow), my good page, and step in them bravely. You’ll find that the winter cold won’t chill you as much.” He stepped in his master’s footprints in the snow. The ground felt warm in the saint’s footprints. So, Christian folk, you can be sure, if you have wealth or power and do good for the poor, you yourselves shall be blessed.
And now, the original carol lyrics by John Mason Neale, set to the tune of Tempus Adest Floridum.
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 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, 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.