Friday, December 26, 2008

Happy Feast of Stephen!

For over a hundred a fifty years, people have enjoyed the popular Christmas Carol, "Good King Wenceslas". It's a nifty tune that's based on a real -life guy named Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia way back over a thousand years ago. Within a few decades after he died there were four biographies out about him. He was one righteous dude who helped out the poor and down & out.

Hundreds of years after his death he was so popular that the Holy Roman Emperor Otto 1 declared that the the Duke was now a King. Too bad he wasn't around to accept the award.

Anyhoo, around the 1850's Rev. John Neale translated a poem by Czech poet Vaclav Svoboda and put the words to an old 13th cnentury tune, "Tempus Adest Floridum".

Viola! "Good King Wenceslas" is born.

Now, the secret to having a tune last for so long has been revealed. Songwriters gather 'round as Wikipedia has explained why this song is a perennial favorite. Follow these instructions and you too may have a hit.

"The lyrics consist of five quatrains in the meter trochaic heptameter. Each quatrain has the scheme AABB with feminine rhyme. The unstressed syllable of the fourth foot is abated in each line in favor of a caesura, forming the line into two hemistichs, which conveys a sense of urgency. In the accompanying common time musical score, the caesura is attained by rendering the fourth foot as a half note, while the last foot of the line effectively becomes a spondee by being realized as two half notes. "

Sounds easy enough.

Now let's go start handing out alms...let's alm's an alms race...sorry, I got carried away.

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