25 December 2010

And so this is Christmas...

Stonehenge on a snowy day (image found online)

It's a little out of character for me to write a blog post that is about neither books nor travel.  But there's a song lingering in my mind that I listened to on an endless loop on the way to and from a Chinese restaurant tonight where we met friends for dinner.  No, I'm not Jewish.  But I'm not Christian, either.  Agnostic, I suppose is the proper term.  Perhaps a cultural Episcopalian is a little more specific. A lapsed Whiskeypalian if you want to get playful with it.  Whatever it is that I am, it's reinforced by listening to traditional ecclesiastical music and looking deeply into my dog's eyes and listening to my cats purr.  And whatever spark of the sacred that remains buried in me always feels deeply disheartened by the relentless commercialism of a secular Christmas; thus, my soundtrack for the drive to dinner tonight was listening to Loreena McKennett perform Good King Wenceslas.

As far as I know, it is the only Christmas carol that remains as relevant today as it ever did.  Okay, so maybe a couple of millennia ago, give or take, this guy Jesus did some pretty revolutionary stuff.  I'm prepared to accept that.  But what does that mean for today, all those angels and mangers (bacon creche!) and glorias in excelsis deo *? For my money, it's the et in terra pax ominibus** that is so important, yet so sorely lacking.  With the changing of just two little words so the song is non gender-specific or non-religious specific, Good King Wenceslas is what speaks to me tonight and all year 'round: give of yourself, give of your time, share what you have, even especially if it takes you out of your comfort zone.  It's pretty simple.  Here are the lyrics, with my slight modifications in place.  Maybe they will speak to you, too.

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
Where 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
Gathering 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 St. Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine, 
Bring me pine logs hither.
Thou and I shall see him dine
When we bring them thither."
Page and monarch forth they went,
Forth they went together.
Heedless of the wind's lament
And the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night grows 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 shall find the winter's rage
Freeze the 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, all good folk, be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing:
You who now shall bless the poor
Shall yourself find blessing.

Here's a link that will take you directly to McKennitt's website so you can get a taste of her rendition of it.

* Glory to God in the highest
**And on earth, peace to all people


  1. Although I describe myself as,"logically I'm an agnostic, but emotionally i stray towards fundamentally confused atheist" I can appreciate the sentiment behind this season wishes & once clear of the barrage of commercial diarrhoea, it's a simple message of love & support.

  2. Lovely. Had never seen the other verses. Today is the feast of St. Stephen and our (rare) snow is crisp and even. Your blog is one of life's pleasures especially to a book addict and Anguilla fan. Another carol you might enjoy is In the Bleak Midwinter.

  3. Anon, I didn't know that today is St. Stephen's day, so thanks for letting me. And thanks for your kind words about my little blog.

    I do very much like the tune and words to In the Bleak Midwinter, or at least the first verse, which is the only one I know. Christina Rosetti penned those words, I believe, but I don't know who did the tune. It's another one of those lovely tunes that might be borrowed from folk tunes of old, like What Child Is This, and which never seems to get enough play time during the holidays.

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting on my review. I appreciate the comments.


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