Friday, 11 December 2009

Grog stall, Náměstí Míru

A few days ago, I mentioned the history of the word 'grog', and to prove it, here is the Grog stall. The sharp-eyed among you will also recognize another loan-word from English, 'punč': yes, that's that other classic winter warmer, Punch, of course.

Needless to say, borrowing from other cultures is never a one-way process. And since the Christmas market is positioned next to the church of St Ludmila, grandmother of St Wenceslas, the time has come to tell you of the origin of a favourite English carol.

The legend of Wenceslas appears first in a work by the great historian Cosmas of Prague, written in 1119. According to Cosmas, the saint arose 'every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain' and 'gave generously to widows and orphans, to those in prison and afflicted with every difficulty, so much so that he was considered not a prince but the father of all the wretched'

The legend was turned into a poem by the 18th century writer Václav Alois Svoboda, and this formed the basis of the carol known to all English children as 'Good King Wensus last looked out'. It was written by the Victorian hymn-writer J.M. Neale.

By the way, a little-known fact is that Wenceslas's page was called 'Podiven'. According to the legend Podiven kept going in the bitter cold by treading in the miraculously hot footsteps of his master. But I wonder whether grog had anything to do with it...

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