How Good King Wenceslas really got written…maybe

1st December 2023

Andy Williams

Co-founder, the wordy 'other half' | Intrigued by good content, and what it achieves | Bit of a nerd, quite creative, loves to write | Father, cyclist, activist | [ he/him ]

Sharon Tanton

Sharon is Content Director at Cohesive, and co-author of Valuable Content Marketing | Fascinated by the power of stories in making change | Loves gardening | Lives in Bristol

A hazy image of a boy collecting wood in a snowy forest, titled Good King Wenceslas. Cynical commentary calls in highlighter pen calls out the dodgy optics of the whole affair.

Picture the scene: Office of Christmas Carols Inc, home of writing all things Christmassy. Two staff writers have been given the job of penning a new carol with a historical twist. Time is running out. It’s snowy dark outside, and we pan back to see the remnants of the office Christmas party. The Alpine Cuckoo clock is ticking, the mulled wine is running low. Maybe this is how all great classics are penned. Maybe…


"So, I'm thinking, we need a strong opener, right? Good is good. King - they don't come no bigger. Wait - Wenceslas? That's a cheese, innit? Oh, I see -  he's the big cheese. No. What?”

Good King Wenceslas looked out 
On the Feast of Stephen

"He’s not actually a King - does that matter? He was a Duke. The Duke of Bohemia, in fact, between 907 and 935. St Stephen now - will people know what he's got to do with Christmas?"

“Listen, this Stephen thing. I'm not sure it's gonna work. The guy was best known for getting stoned! I mean, it's not like no one gets stoned at Christmas - but does that shout 'family values' to you.”

When the snow lay round about

Deep and crisp and even

“That’s good scene setting, right there”

"What - is that a shot at product placement? Was there even pizza in the 10th century? Or espresso. Wait, not even smashed avo on sourdough toast?"

Brightly shone the moon that night

Though the frost was cruel

“Lush, that is. Don't we need reindeer though? I mean:

Brightly shone the moon that night

All sparkly on the reindeer

Put that beer back in the fridge?

I fear you speak in vain, dear

How's that land with you.”

When a poor man came in sight

Gathering winter fuel

"Quite right. It’s his duty as a citizen to try everything to avoid fuel poverty."

"So, outside-in, putting ourselves in the shoes of Bohemian royalty, what’s the tone of voice here? Is it a bit like ‘Scaramouche, Scaramouche, can you do the fandango’. I know…"

Hither, page, and stand by me,

If thou knowst it, telling

"If it was good enough for Freddy…"

"Hither! You don't meet too many Hither's these days."

Yonder peasant, who is he?

Where and what his dwelling?

"Yeah. Funny. This page guy deserves a name, right? I’m on it…."

Sire, he lives a good league hence,

Underneath the mountain

Right against the forest fence

By Saint Agnes fountain.

"Wait -  I’ve got the next verse:

Begging coins at wishing wells

Next to the city dung pile

In a hovel made of sticks that smells

A conscious choice of lifestyle.



Now, let’s pause and reprise. The great King and soon-to-be saint (spoiler) takes a ‘break’ from at least 2 days of feasting and drinking and, wondering if anyone has cleared the  snowy path to the outside privy, he glances out the window. Seeing the shadowy figure of someone picking up wood, he immediately discounts the idea of a wildlife volunteer on a litter pick, and decides this must be a ‘poor person’ in need of great charity and munificence. That, or, did he have a bangin’ business idea 12 centuries before Deliveroo? We’ll never be quite sure, but in any case…"

Bring me flesh and bring me wine

Bring me pine logs hither

Thou and I shall see him dine

When we bear them thither.

"I love it that he never dithered before he thithered."

Page and monarch, forth they went

Forth they went together

"Think anyone will notice that little repetition ‘cos it gives me breathing room to conjure a difficult rhyme?"

"Listen, you know that Christmas moment when Granny dozes off and farts? And you blame the dog because… you’d feel better shooting Rudolph than admitting Granny can crack one out. Well how about…."

Through the rude winds wild lament

And the bitter weather

"…see what I did there!"

Sire, the night is darker now

And the wind blows stronger

"Hehe… that fart joke has wings…"

"Enough with the farts. You’re ruining my character versus nature dramatic conflict."

Fails my heart, I know not how

I can go no longer.

Mark my footsteps, good my page

Tread thou in them boldly

"Wait: - Mark my footsteps, good my page?

We could go gangsta:

Mark my footsteps good, my page

Or maybe trad, with:

Mark my footsteps, my good page

Whadya think?"

"Hell yeah! Well, actually, hell no."

Thou shall find the winters rage

Freeze thy blood less coldly.

"Slipped in a little controversy. The nerds will be up in arms that you can’t freeze something less. Hate nerds."

In his masters step he trod

Where the snow lay dinted

Heat was in the very sod

Which the Saint had printed

"Don’t heat plus snow = puddle?"


Therefore, Christian men, be sure

Wealth or rank possessing

"Have we bigged up the drama enough? Should the Good King slip on his ermine and fall unconscious into a snowdrift to be rescued by the page?"

"I'm going with Frederick (Freddy) - for the page. That'll stand the test of time."

"Maybe Freddy and the poor guy should team up for the rescue? A bit more drama, a bit less 'blessed are the poor' dodginess."

Ye, who now will bless the poor

Shall yourselves find blessing.

"Oh, you’ve gone there."

"Took us a while to get there - but that is the take away for the ages."


"That's a wrap!"



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