Twelve Days of Christmas Poetry: II

(December 26th is the feast day of St. Stephen)

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. (or “…winter weather.”)

“Sire, the night is darker now, and the winds blow stronger; (or “…wind blows…”)
Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer.” (or “…can not go longer.”)
“Mark my footsteps, my good page. Treadst thou in them boldly: (or “Tread now…”)
Thou shalt find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly.” (or “Thou should find…”)

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.


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    In honor of St. Stephen’s Day, here are the lyrics to St. Stephen’s Day Murders:

    (Paddy Moloney/Elvis Costello)

    I knew of two sisters whose name it was Christmas
    And one was named Dawn of course, the other one was named Eve
    I wonder if they grew up hating the season
    Of the good will that lasts till the Feast of St. Stephen

    For that is the time to eat, drink and be merry
    ‘Til the beer is all spilled and the whiskey is flowed
    And the whole family tree you neglected to bury
    Are feeding their faces until they explode

    There’ll be laughter and tears over Tia Marias
    Mixed up with that drink made from girders
    And it’s all we’ve got left as you draw your last breath
    And it’s nice for the kids as you’ve finally got rid of them
    In the St Stephen’s Day Murders

    Uncle is garglin’ a heart-breaking air
    While the babe in his arms pulls out all that remains of his hair
    And we’re not drunk enough yet to dare criticize
    The great big kipper tie he’s about to baptize

    His gin-flavoured whispers and kisses of sherry
    His best crimble shirt flung out over the shop
    While the lights from the Christmas tree blow up the telly
    His face closes in like an old cold pork chop

    [Alternate Chorus:]
    And the carcass of the beast left over from the feast
    May still be found haunting the kitchen
    And there’s life in it yet we may live to regret
    When the ones that we poisoned stop twitchin’

    [Regular Chorus Repeat]

  2. ok, Kevin, you win :)

  3. What Kristine said.

    (My son saw “Sweeney Todd” last night, so this song fits my day perfectly. That’s a bit wrong, but it is what it is.

  4. Manhattan Transfer just did a version of this on their latest Christmas album (using their children on some of the verses). It was the first time I’d ever heard all the verses and it stopped me in my tracks.

    The last two lines in particular haunts me. I don’t see starvation and freezing outside my window as the Good King did way back when, but there are plenty in need and I don’t do enough to help them.

    “Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
    Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.” Amen.

  5. I have a soft spot for this one too, and especially for the last couplet. My favorite rendition is by The Roches. : )

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh, Cathy, I too love the Roches!

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