Song Analysis

Good King Wenceslas

Wednesday 17 August 2011, by Cécile Desbrun

"Good King Wenceslas" is the only carol on Midwinter Graces in which Tori didn’t modify the lyrics one bit, therefore making it a faithful rendition. The lyrics to the carol were written in 1853 by John Mason Neale and tell the legend of the good king Wenceslas who, on the Feast of Stephen (December 26), set out to give alms to a poor peasant and rescued the page that followed him and was about to die from the cold weather: the king’s footprints in the snow created a magical heat that warmed up the page.

This legend is based on the life of Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia (907-935), a Czech historical figure who was considered as a martyr and a saint soon after his death. He was known for going around the different churches of the area every night with bare feet, only accompanied by a page, to give alms to poor peasants, widows and orphans. He was thus considered as the "father of all the wretched" and strongly influenced the High Middle Ages conceptualization of the righteous king.

He was murdered in 935 as the result of a plot instigated by his younger brother Boleslav I of Bohemia, nicknamed Boleslav the Cruel. A cult in his name developped in Bohemia and England soon after his death and numerous biographies were devoted to him. He is the saint patron of the Czech Republic and his feast is on September 28.

At first considered a legend, the acts of generosity of Wenceslas were claimed as fact by Pope Pius II who imitated him and walked ten miles barefoot in the snow for Thanksgiving. Holy Roman Emperor Otto I posthumously conferred the duke with the "regal dignity and title."

Information sources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_King_Wenceslas
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wenceslaus_I,_Duke_of_Bohemia