Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Good King Wenceslas

The canal is frozen and I begin the day with a brave act - getting out of my snug bed. The boat is very draughty with gaps above the back doors and I can see daylight through the side hatch and none of the windows close tight. Of course I've only had another whole year in which to remedy these things but they go straight out of my head with the first ray of spring sunshine!
But the days are so beautiful and sunny at the moment, that the freezing mornings and nights are ok.
Most days, I forage for wood when I go for a walk with my dog (4-legged hot-water bottle. I'm sorry to exploit an animal, but I swear it's mutual ;-)
On days like this, I find myself singing Good King Wenceslas which is a carol I love, partly because of the description of the 'dinted snow' cruel frost and shining moon and partly because of the 'gathering winter fuel' part. I feel like part of something eternal in a landscape of roaring motorway and barbed-wire fencing.

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
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 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, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

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