Saturday, December 26, 2009

Good King Wenceslas

Happy Boxing Day to all you Brits and Canadians out there.  We had a lovely Christmas, and hope you all had the same. Boxing Day isn’t much celebrated in the States.  In fact, I never heard of it until I was a teenager.  For me, December 26 is the day that Good King Wenceslas looked out.

Until I was about ten, Good King Wenceslas looked out upon the feets of Stephen. At the time, I supposed the reason that Good King Wenceslas was looking upon Stephen’s feets was that Stephen was barefoot. Since the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even, it occurred to the King that Stephen’s feets were very cold.  Good King Wenceslas, as we know, had a special affinity for feets, since with every step he trod, where the snow lay dinted, heat was in the very sod which the Saint had printed.  And so,moved by the poor man’s plight, he had his goodly page bring him flesh and bring him wine, and bring him pine logs hither.  Then page and monarch, forth they went together, through the rude wind’s wild lament, so that they could bear them thither and see him dine.

I did eventually discover that Stephen was not yonder peasant, but the Saint upon whose feast day Good King Wenceslas looked out. That realization took some of the joy out of the story for me, for the the thought of the actual Saint Stephen’s broken corpse lying under a pile of rocks doesn’t comfort me much.  I loved the idea of poor cold-footed Peasant Stephen standing in the king’s toasty footprints and receiving an armload of pine logs and meat and wine for Christmas dinner, and to this day, I am warmed by the image of this act of compassion.

Therefore, Christian men, be sure

Wealth or rank possessing

Ye who now will bless the poor

Shall yourselves find blessing.