Rex Wenceslaus

The English carol "Good King Wenceslas" was written by John Mason Neale, and first published in 1853. The music is based on a medieval song of spring. You can find the English lyrics along with music files and sheet music at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website. There is also a Wikipedia article about this carol.

The story of King Wenceslas has become connected with the Christmas holiday season because the feast of Saint Stephen, mentioned in the carol, falls on December 26.

The legend recounted in this carol tells how Wenceslas sees a poor man gathering wood in the snow. He decides to take food and wine to cheer the poor man. Together with his attendant, Wenceslas goes out into the snow, but the attendant finds it rough going, so Wenceslas tells the boy to walk in his footsteps, so that it will be easier for him. That's all there is to the story, although there are many other stories told about "good Wenceslas." You can read all about the historical Wenceslaus (Vaclav), the 10th-century Duke of Bohemia, in the detailed article at Wikipedia.

Latin translation by Stephen A. Hurlbut.

Sanctus Wenceslaus rex,
Stephani ad festum,
agrum vidit nivibus
gelidis congestum.
Vidit pauperem sibi
ligna colligentem,
qui sub luna splendida
sensit se frigentem.

"Huc, O puer, siste huc,
dicens, si cognoris,
quis sit, ubi habitet
pauper iste foris?"
"Ere, procul habitat,
subter illum montem,
silvae iuxta limitem,
ad Agnetis fontem."

"Affer carnem, vinum fer,
lignum afferamus,
ut nos illi pauperi
cenam praebeamus."
Rex et puer prodibant
animo aequali,
vento flante acriter
tempore brumali.

"Ere, nox fit atrior;
ventus vi augetur.
Plus non possum; nescio cur,
valde cor terretur."
"Puer mi, vestigia tu
sequere libenter;
hiems saeva laedet te
minus violenter."

Puer regem sequitur,
unde nix discessit;
fervor glaebis inerat,
ubi sanctus pressit.
Hoc scitote, divites,
Christum qui amatis:
Vos beate eritis,
si quem vos beatis.



Here is an image of a 1913 edition of the song:




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