Good King Wenceslas (1904)
HE POEM HERE illustrated by Mr. Gaskin's beautiful pictures was written to suit a Mediæval tune by Dr. John Mason Neale, who was one of the leaders in the early days of the Ritualistic movement. Dr. Neale was a representative of a side of the movement, which, unless I am mistaken has almost died out as a special characteristic of Ritualism—the historical side to wit. This has happened I think because of the growth amongst thinking people generally of a sense of the importance of Mediæval history, and of the increasing knowledge that the ecclesiastical part of it cannot be dissociated from its civil & popular parts. Mediæval history in all its detail, with all its enthusiasms, legends, and superstitions, is now cultivated by many who have no ecclesiastical bias as a portion of the great progress of the life of man on the earth, the discovery of which as an unbroken chain belongs almost entirely to our own days. But to Dr. Neale must be awarded the honour of being the chief figure of the history lovers, or shall we say the Mediævalists in the movement in question, and the poem before us is a good specimen of his manner & its limitations. The legend itself is pleasing and a genuine one, and the Christmas-like quality of it, recalling the times of my boyhood, appeals to me at least as a happy memory of past days.
As this preface is a part of the book and not a criticism of it as a work of art I must not say much of the merits of the pictures done by my friend Mr. Gaskin; but I cannot help saying that they have given me very much pleasure, both as achievements in themselves and as giving hopes of a turn towards the ornamental side of illustration, which is most desirable.
OOD KING WENCESLAS LOOK'D 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 & 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 WILL SEE HIM DINE
WHEN WE BEAR THEM THITHER."
PAGE AND MONARCH, FORTH THEY WENT,
FORTH THEY WENT TOGETHER;
THROUGH THE RUDE WINDS LOUD 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 WIND
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.
Reprinted from the edition issued by Cornish Brothers. Double border and title from drawings by Will Dwiggins. One hundred eighty-five copies printed by hand at the Village Press, Hingham, Massachusetts, by Fred & Bertha Goudy, and finished the 19th day of November, 1904.