Little is known of St. Stephen, whose feast day is celebrated on December 26. He was among the first seven deacons and was the first martyr. See the Book of Acts, Chapters 6 and 7, and this biography of St. Stephen from the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Picture Left: The Death of St. Stephen, by Gustave Doré.
A Battle Song In Troubled Times (Fear not, O little flock)
Deus tuorum militum (Office hymn for the Common of Martyrs)
Saint Stephen Was A Holy Man - Version 1
Saint Stephen Was An Holy Man - Version 2
In Middle English:
Seynt Stevene was a clerk (Wright, 1856)
Seyt steuene was a clerk (Sandys, 1833)
But in a more contemporary vein: Come, Mad Boys.
And there is this note from William Sandys:
"Croker, in his “Researches in the South of Ireland,” (p. 233,) mentions a custom on St. Stephen’s Day for the young villagers to carry about from house to house a holly bush adorned with ribbons, having many wrens depending from it, the “Wren boys” chaunting several verses, the burthen of which may be collected from the following lines of their song
"The Wren, the Wren, the king of all birds,
St. Stephen’s day was caught in the furze.
Although he is little, his family’s great,
I pray you, good landlady, give us a treat.
My box would speak if it had but a tongue,
And two or three shillings would do it no wrong,
Sing holly, sing ivy—sing ivy, sing holly,
A drop just to drink, it would drown melancholy.
And if you draw it of the best,
I hope in heaven your soul may rest;
But if you draw it of the small,
It won’t agree with the Wren boys at all, &c. &c.
"A small piece of money is usually bestowed on them, and the evening concludes with merrymaking."
William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London: Richard Beckley, 1833), , p. lxv
A poem to St. Stephen can be found in Christmas-tide Poetry of John Keble.
See, generally, December 26 - St. Stephen's Day (William Hone).
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