In the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” the page following his master, steps into his masters’ footsteps . I was thinking of this when admiring badger paw prints in the fresh snow on a cold morning .
The print seemed very large and I marveled that badgers seemed much bigger than I remembered them. I realised eventually that the largest prints were doubles, made as the badger stepped into his own footprint in the snow. I wondered if , like the struggling pageboy in the carol, he kept his feet warm in this way, though I doubt if he obtained the same miraculous heat from the foot print that saved the freezing page ! I doubt the badger was following the saintly King through the snow either, but I hummed the tune nonetheless to warm myself as we walked back across the winter landscape.
The carol, as we know it, was written by John Mason Neale . It is based on a poem and uses a very old melody. King Wenceslas, the first Christian king of Bohemia was murdered by his pagan brother. The King was out in the snow taking food and fire wood to a poor man on a freezing winter night followed by his faithful page who stepped in the King’s miraculous warm footprints.
Good King Wenceslas
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 shall 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.
“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, good my 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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