Good King Wenceslas

This ballad-style Christmas carol for the feast of St Stephen is based on a story from the life of Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, who was also known as Vaclac the Good / Svatý Václav, a Bohemian prince who was martyred in 935AD, and who was known for his acts of charity.

It was written in 1853 by English Anglican priest, scholar and hymnwriter John Mason Neale (1818–1866).

With meter, it is (almost?) always set to the tune TEMPUS ADEST FLORIDUM, published in Piae Cantiones, 1582.


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Traditional choir with organ, on-screen lyrics:

Folk-band - professional recording:

Singer with Celtic band - professional recording:

Small professional group, with orchestral instruments

Choir and congregation, with organ:

Duet with guitar - acoustic setting:

Instrumental - guitar:


Traditional language

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 you know 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 food 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 cold 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 now in them boldly,
Thou shall 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, while God’s gifts possessing,
Thou who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.

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