Sunday, December 12, 2010

It Happened On A Feast Of Stephen

Greetings dear loyal reader. Once again snow shoveling season is upon us. A squall from Lake Huron hit Antler River last Sunday and did not let up until Wednesday. With the eagerness of the proverbial Canadian beaver, I grabbed my trusty shovel and headed out on seven separate occasions to clear away the accumulated flakes.

When all was said and done, we had about 100 cm of snow (for those of you who are not used to the metric system, this translates to roughly 47 ounces or 1.78 pounds per square inch). But you should have seen this winter wonderland! The snow was lying round about; deep, and crisp, and even.

For some reason, I’m reminded of that old Holiday song about a good king. You know — the one that begins, “Good King’s wench is lost. Look out...” That’s not really how it goes, but that could be a common Mondegreen.

Of course the good king in the familiar song is none other than His Royal Majesty King Wenceslas.

Here is the story of an incident that took place one winter evening which might give you some idea of the character of this "good" king.

Note: There are disturbing overtones of cannibalism in this legend — eating flesh, and a feast of Stephen. This story may not be suitable for small children and fussy eaters.

It seems that one night when the moon shone bright (though there was frost on the gruel), King Wenceslas took a break from his cold porridge and happened to espy a poor fellow in the snow gathering fuel. It’s not clear if the man was drilling for oil, mining coal, or collecting some wood. Suffice it to say, he needed to ignite something combustible in order to heat his humble abode.

The king was likely upset that some filthy commoner was out there scuzzying up his lovely blanket of virgin snow. So he yelled to his faithful sidekick Paige, “Hither Paige, and stand by me!”

Paige quickly hurried to the side of her crowned commander. He demanded that she tell him who in blazes was “yonder peasant” (the king always liked to use degrading terms for those he felt were below his station in life, which would include just about everyone). She informed him that the man lived a good league hence (about 1.879 kilometers per cubic hour for those used to the metric system), and that he lived right against the forest fence, underneath the mountain (presumably in a cave). Why a fence would extend into a mountain cave or tunnel is anyone’s guess, but it’s possible that this fence cordoned off the property of a saintly neighbour by the name of Agnes Fountain.

After getting the facts from Paige, the king demanded, “Bring me flesh, and bring me wine. Bring me pine logs hither. We shall bear them.”
So Paige and monarch forth they went togither to bear thither a feast of wine, flesh, and tasty pine logs.

En route to yonder wretched oaf, Paige complains that she is having a heart failure and can go on no longer. The icy king responds with a curt  “Mark my footsteps! Tread thou in them!” This, he alleged, would make her blood “freeze less coldly”. Well I’m no physicist, but frozen is frozen. If your blood freezes, it matters little if it freezes 10 or 100 times less  (that’s 6.89 or 73.47 times for those of you not used to the metric system).

Besides, Paige was a diminutive thing. The king was a large fellow with a stride like Yao Ming. His footprints were well in excess of five cubits apart (for those of you used to the metric system, well, you figure it out. I’ve never know what the heck a cubit was). In order to tread in that dinted snow, Paige must have looked like a little lord a-leaping.

Now all this about the king’s cold attitude and whether or not anyone engaged in cannibalism is definitely subject to interpretation. However, the fact that the king didn’t invite the peasant into his warm castle for a nice holiday meal is not.

It’s not as if yonder clodhopper was a long ways off. Paige could clearly identify him without visual aid, so he was probably within shouting distance. The king could have bellowed through the crispy moonlit night, “Hey, yonder dirtbag! Come hither for a bowl of frosty gruel and a nice warm plate of Stephen.”

There you have it. I hope this puts you in the holiday spirit. May your Christmas be merry, your New Year happy, and your oatmeal frost free.

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