EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, December 7, 2013

"Therefore ... be sure, Wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, Shall yourselves find blessing."

At Cocoa Beach, Fl. Photo by Michael Pelzer
When Good King Wenceslas looked out and saw the snow with the moon shining bright in about the year 1000, he could have been describing the weather on almost any Christmas Eve in any Canadian community.

Before I go any further with King Wenceslas  as revealed in the popular carol 'Good King Wenceslas', I only recently discovered that he was not really a king, but the Duke of Bohemia, and he was looking out on the Feast of St Stephen, the day after Christmas. To me it doesn't really matter as the carol brings back fond memories and delivers a message that applies any time.

My mother Muriel E. (Hunt) Morris directed many concerts and musicals during the 32 years that she taught at Chapleau Public School, and she was also the choir director at St. John's Anglican Church for years. Music was an important part of our home, and that's how I became acquainted with King Wenceslas as a boy.

It became the carol that to me applied most to the weather at Christmas time. Looking outside before leaving for Christmas Eve service, "the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even. Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel..."

As we headed to St. John's, I would hum the carol and think to myself that all that needed to be added was the smoke going straight up into the skies, the temperature hovering at Fifty degrees below Fahrenheit and the wonderful display and music coming from Dr G.E. Young's clinic.

I have spent Christmas in other Canadian communities, and no matter where I am, it seems Good King Wenceslas is my theme song. The lyrics were published in 1853 by the English hymn writer John Mason Neale.

Now, the carol addresses a subject that I never thought about much as a child growing up in Chapleau. I had my family, friends and a community where people cared about and helped each other in times of need.

Even though there were times when I missed my father James E Morris who was killed while on active service in the RCAF in World War II, I had my mother, my grandparents George and Edith Hunt and Harry and Lil Morris as well as my aunt and uncle, Elsie (Hunt) and B.W. 'Bubs" Zufelt and my cousins, and my aunt Marion (Morris) Kennedy.

And I had my many good friends in my growing up years, and as a teenager would run between the Anglican church and the Roman Catholic church which some of my friends attended, making it an ecumenical Christmas Eve. Afterwards we all partied together no matter the church.

But as the King walks with his page, "a poor man came in sight, Gathering winter fuel." The page tells him that this man lives "underneath the mountain."

On Christmas Eve in Chapleau those many years ago, as we greeted people on the street who were going to or coming from their respective churches, I never really thought about those who may be homeless and without food--- living underneath the mountain, so to speak.

The good King took immediate action though telling his page to gather food and wine and pine logs that they would take to the peasant and see him dine, "through the rude wind's wild lament, And the bitter weather."

The page was ready to give up as the night grew darker and wind blew stronger, but the King encouraged him and they made it to their destination.

As I reflected on "Good King Wenceslas" it struck me that one of the most incredible moments when I lived in Chapleau was a telethon broadcast over Dr. Young's cable TV system in the early 1980s to raise funds for those in need, and over $20,000 was raised during the show. I was cohosting the telethon with other local "personalities", sponsored by the Chapleau Rotary Club, and as the donations poured in, I became more and more amazed at the outpouring of support.

As many of you know, especially my former students, I love metaphor and have been collecting them all my life. I hope I have not mixed them too badly as I have talked about the Good King Wenceslas.

At this Christmas time, I extend my very best wishes to my family and friends who have shared moments of their lives with me during the past year. Thank you so much and Merry Christmas.

My thoughts also turn to all those good people, who have shared some moments of their lives with me, past and present, in so many communities across our country and in the United States. Joyeux Noel!

 I leave all of you wherever you may be with the last words from 'Good King Wenceslas',

"Therefore ... be sure, Wealth or rank possessing, Ye who now will bless the poor, Shall yourselves find blessing."

End Note: I selected 'Good King Wenceslas' by the choir of Yorkminster as I think my Mom would have enjoyed this version.

No comments:

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


click on image


Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE