As the snow continues to fall, a continuation of the extract from ‘Other‘:
Christmas had long passed when the snow fell, but those few February days were picture-postcard scenes of winter and as we trudged through snowy woods near the house I was reminded of the carol:
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.
The song is odd because it is only a part tale. We don’t end up finding out what finally happened to the Good King, his tiring page or the peasant they pursued with flesh, wine and pine logs. The carol doesn’t even go on long enough to say whether Wenceslas reached the peasant’s home. We don’t know whether he revealed his identity or simply left the gifts outside, nor if this mythic Good King did more for peasantry than this one generous act.
The carol is hagiography: originally a reminder of the good life of Svatý Václav, Saint Wenceslaus 1, Duke of Bohemia, who gave generously to the poor, it urges us to follow not just in his footsteps but in the warming steps of Christ who goes ahead of us when we help the needy.
I knocked on the door of a nearby family as we went out to play in the snow, wondering if their son wanted to come and play with my own. He didn’t. He’d been out for a minute earlier and decided it was too cold, and was now inside playing a computer game.
Like the carol, we don’t know ultimately where these journeys into the snow, outside the comforts of our warm castles, may take us and, given that this was the first proper snow anyone under the age of 20 would have known in London, I don’t blame the boy for staying in the warm. But I wanted my son to realise this, at whatever level he could: to remain inside while it snows means missing out on something, being cut off from the generous little street-level exchanges that sustain life in the city. A shared snowboard, a helping hand from a stranger, familiar places covered in a new light…