Good King Wenceslas - Chords, Lyrics and Origins

Origins

You can find versions of Good King Wenceslas with a chord change on almost every beat.  Technically accurate?  Perhaps.  But not designed for the guitar.  The chords I've given you here should work really well in a folk idiom.  And you can always use a capo to change the key if G doesn't work for you.

Good King Wenceslas is based on the legend of a kind ruler who provided food for a poor man in his hour of need.  Wenceslas himself was a real historical figure: Vaclav the good, a Duke of Bohemia, who lived in the tenth century.  The real Wenceslas came to a sticky end - assassinated by his wicked brother, Boleslaw the Bad.  (Nasty old Boleslaw doesn't have any songs written about him, that we know of).  The Feast of Stephen is 26th December - Boxing day in other words, which is still associated with charitable giving today.

The legend of Wenceslas began to develop soon after the real man's death.  The lyrics were written by J M Neale in 1853, who was also responsible for the English translation of the Christmas hymn, "O come, O come, Emmanuel".  The tune is much older: it is based on "Tempus adest floridum" ("The time is near for flowering"), which may date from the thirteetnth century and which was first published in  1582.

You can find more information about the origins of Good King Wenceslas here.

Chords

G                            Em
Good King Wenceslas looked out

C                         G
On the feast of Stephen,


G                                Em
When the snow lay round about,

C                                 G
Deep and crisp and even.

G                               Em
Brightly shone the moon that night,

C                                    G
Though the frost was cruel,

G                             Em
When a poor man came in sight,

Bm                         C     G
Gathering winter fu - el.




G                               Em
"Hither, page, and stand by me.

C                        G
If thou know it telling:


G                           Em
Yonder peasant, who is he?

C                                 G
Where and what his dwelling?"

G                          Em
"Sire, he lives a good league hence,

C                           G
Underneath the mountain,

G                             Em
Right against the forest fence

Bm                      C     G
By Saint Agnes fountain."




G                                  Em
"Bring me flesh, and bring me wine.

C                               G
Bring me pine logs hither.


G                         Em
Thou and I will see him dine

C                              G
When we bear the thither."

G                                 Em
Page and monarch, forth they went,

C                               G
Forth they went together

G                                          Em
Through the rude wind's wild lament

Bm                    C    G
And the bitter weather.




G                             Em
"Sire, the night is darker now,

C                                  G
And the wind blows stronger.


G                           Em
Fails my heart, I know not how.

C                  G
I can go no longer."

G                                 Em
"Mark my footsteps my good page,

C                                G
Tread thou in them boldly

G                                Em
Thou shalt find the winter's rage

Bm                                C    G
Freeze thy blood less coldly."




G                         Em
In his master's step he trod,

C                                 G
Where the snow lay dented.


G                          Em
Heat was in the very sod

C                                 G
Which the saint had printed.

G                                 Em
Therefore, Christian men, be sure,

C                             G
Wealth or rank possessing,

G                           Em
Ye who now will bless the poor

Bm                               C     G
Shall yourselves find blessing.

Lyrics

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,
Gathering winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me.
If thou 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 flesh, and bring me wine.
Bring me pine logs hither.
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear the 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 my good page,
Tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's step he trod,
Where the snow lay dented.
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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