Good King Wenceslas a non-violent adaptation

King Wenceslaus Goes Vegan

Animal abuse and violence have no place in the Christmas season. Modern celebrants of Christmas, therefore, look to retain the values associated with this culturally rich holiday while refusing to grace, legitimize, or tolerate violent practices.

The Christmas hymn “Good King Wenceslas” was written in 1853 by John Mason Neale.  This song has been a standard part of the Christmas celebration since that time.  People who celebrate Christmas, whether in non-religious vegan holiday spirit or in the non-violent Christian tradition, generally recoil at the third verse as originally written, in which the king calls for “flesh.”  It’s unclear whether this line is intended to be a declaration of cannibalism or simple necrovory.  Whatever the case, this repulsive passage is clearly out of character with the rest of the story, in which the King is portrayed as kind, strong, courageous, and generous.

Thus, in order to bring this carol back into working order, a non-violent adaptation is provided below, in which “flesh” is replaced with “bread.”  This replacement is advantageous, because it (i) retains the single syllable and (ii) the essential vowel sound of the original lyric while (iii) eliminating the violent and rather disgusting cannibalism/necrovory and (iv) evoking more appropriate imagery: bread being the “staff of life” is much more powerful in and suitable for this context than is imagery of death and a rotting corpse.

Please feel free to use these lyrics in your Christmas caroling henceforth!


Good King Wenceslas

Original lyrics: John Mason Neale; Adaptation: S. E. Harrison.

1. Good King Wenceslas looked out
on the feast of Stephen,
when the snow lay round about,
deep, and crisp, and even;
brightly shone the moon that night,
though the frost was cruel,
when a poor man came in sight,
gath’ring winter fuel.

2. ‘Hither, page, and stand by me,
if thou know’st it, telling:
yonder peasant, who is he,
where and what his dwelling?’
‘Sire, he lives a good league hence,
underneath the mountain,
right against the forest fence,
by St. Agnes’ fountain.’

3. ‘Bring me bread and bring me wine,
bring me pine logs hither;
thou and I will see him dine,
when we bear them thither.’
Page and monarch, forth they went,
forth they went together;
through the rude wind’s wild lament,
and the bitter weather.

4. ‘Sire, the night is darker now,
and the wind blows stronger;
fails my heart, I know not how;
I can go no longer.’
‘Mark my footsteps, my good page;
tread thou in them boldly:
thou shalt find the winter’s rage
freeze your blood less coldly.’

5. In his master’s steps he trod,
where the snow lay dinted;
heat was in the very sod
which the Saint had printed.
Therefore, Christians all, be sure,
wealth or rank possessing,
ye who now will bless the poor,
shall yourselves find blessing.



Silent Night a new English translation/adaptation

“Silent Night” Turns 200: Non-Violent English-Language Translation/Adaptation Now Available

The famous Christmas hymn “Silent Night” (“Stille Nacht”) was first performed on the night of Dec 24-25, 1818.   Joseph Mohr wrote the lyrics in 1816, and Franz Gruber set them to music in 1818 for the Christmas Mass of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria.  This song has endured ever since that time as one of the most universally recognized Christmas carols and hymns.  “Silent Night” is one of the songs that was sung by opposing forces during the Christmas truce of 1914. This hymn has been declared a UNESCO cultural heritage piece and is one of the most highly recorded songs of all times.

Modern Christmas celebrants in general as well as vegan Christians who embrace non-violence in particular, however, reject a portion of the original text that includes a tacit recognition of animal exploitation, enslavement, and slaughter, namely, the phrase that includes a reference to “shepherds.” In order to bring the text into line with the spirit of kindness universally associated with the Christmas holiday and with the non-violence values particularly associated with original Christian teachings, a new English translation/adaptation—a “veganized” adaptation—is provided below.

This translation/adaptation is identical to the pre-existing English translation (mainly by John Young) except that the clause “Shepherds quake” has been replaced with “Stars awake.”  This replacement has the virtue of (i) eliminating the animal-abuse text while (ii) retaining the original meter and “-ake” sound of the well-known English-language translation and (iii) also tying into the rest of the second verse more effectively, since the remainder of this verse pertains to sky-related concepts or symbols (e.g., “heaven” and “heavenly”).  Retaining the poetics of a line is an essential task of veganizing a classic work.

Please feel free to use this text henceforth in your Christmas celebrations!


Silent Night

Lyrics: Joseph Mohr; Music: Franz Gruber; English translation:  John Yong; English adaptation: S. E. Harrison

1. Silent night, holy night,
all is calm, all is bright
round yon virgin
mother and child.
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace,
sleep in heavenly peace.

2. Silent night, holy night,
stars awake at the sight;
glories stream from heaven afar,
heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

3. Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
radiant beams from thy holy face
with the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

4. Silent night, holy night,
wondrous star, lend thy light;
with the angels let us sing,
Alleluia to our King;
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!