Thursday, 26 December 2013

Good King Wenceslas, Upholder of Patriarchy

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine,
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I shall see him dine
When we bear them thither"

The poor man's woes were ironic, when you consider where he lived. In a forest. There was no shortage of pine trees where he lived, but he clearly wasn't allowed to chop them down. If it was anything like the situation in other parts of Europe, he would have been forbidden actually to chop down the trees. Hence he had to leave the trees where they were. The act of "sticking", ie picking up the branches and twigs that were blown down or broken down by, for example, heavy snow, would have been one of his limited rights. But green sticks arent great fuel, and so he'd  had to travel a league to get enough.

Likewise the flesh that the Good King forced his page to carry into the wind and bitter weather. The poor man lived in a forest. He was surrounded by game. But he couldn't catch it - hunting was strictly for the upper classes. He could have water from St Agnes' fountain, but the fishponds belonged to the St Agnes monastery. Given the bohemian climate, brewing would have been a better idea than winemaking. No, not that kind if bohemian climate - I don't mean the poor man was dressed like a hipster and into conceptual art. He wasn't out there putting in his new installation - "Forest 2 - Pine on Snow".  I mean it was temperate, with cold winters. But brewing requires barley fields. And all the local land was owned by the local landowner. Whoever he was. He was probably some kind of king, I reckon. They owned all the forests, after all.

So Good  King Wenceslas and his page made it tbrough the snow to the poor man's house, and gave him the pine logs, wine and flesh. And never once reflected that this kind of random alms-distribution, dependent on the whim of minor royalty looking out of castle windows at the right time, is inefficient And regressive.  It's no form of substitute for a planned and progressive welfare system, or the redistributive and progressive taxation of Middle-European monarchs. But then, look who got the sainthood.

I guess that's how it works out, when you keep your religion separate from your politics.


  1. It's really great to have that jaundiced eyeview that comes from a real Arch Druid, not one of those apprentice/standin/substitute who've been putting their blatherings on this page for so long.

    If you keep on this way, the Druids will win the next General Election and we can put all of the politicians to the sword = win-win.

  2. Not an original thought - Terry Pratchett covered the same ground in Hogfather a while back - but no less apposite for that.

    Alms distribution on a whim is bad news because whims are, well, whims. In real-world Jersey (where income support didn't arrive until 2006), a record prize fund on the Channel Island Christmas Lottery coincided with a 50% drop in giving to the island's longstanding Christmas Appeal.

    1. Rats. I have never read Hogfather. It just goes to show. If you want to be truly original, you first have to read everything in existence.


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