Related to the Cherry Tree Carols
Appalachia, Collected by John Jacob Niles
The musical arrangement published by G. Schirmer is distributed by
Hal Leonard Corporation, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
1. When Joseph was an olden man,
He lived full many a year, a year,
He courted and wedded the Queen of Heav'n,
And called her his dear.
2. Then Joseph was a carpenter,
And Mary baked and spun, and spun,
And when 'twas ripe-cherry time again
A family was begun.
3. Then Mary in her meekness,
Then Mary what was mile, so mild,
Said: "Cherries is the bestest thing,
For wimmen bearin' child."
4. Then up spake Joseph to Mary --
He was a man unkind, unkind --
"Oh, it's who has sired your baby
That's a-bothering' my mind.
5. "Go tell this one, and straight-away,
That cherries hain't nothing' to me, to me;
If he's e'er a man to sire a child,
He's a man to climb a tree."
6. Then Mary's Son, our Saviour,
He spake from Mary's heart, her heart:
"I'll make this tree bow low down,
I'll take my mammy's part."
7. Then the cherry-tree hit bow low down,
Hit bowed down to the ground, the ground,
And gentle Mary helped herself
To cherries without a sound.
8. Then Joseph said in terror:
"I see my wrong is great, is great,
Pray come, my gentle Queen of Heav'n,
The secret do relate."
9. Then said the Virgin Mary,
"The secret I will share, will share:
On Christmas Eve, in an ox's stall,
The Christ-Child I will bear.
According to Niles' notes, collected in Breathitt County, Kentucky, May, 1934.
Editor's Note: Compare Joseph Were A Young Man where the Lord commands the cherry tree to bow down before Mary.
This carol is noted as one of several "doubting Joseph" carols by Hugh Keyte and Andrew Parrott including The Cherry Tree Carols, Joseph Being An Aged Man, Joseph Being An Old Man Truly, and Joseph Was An Old Man. See The New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), Carol #129, pp. 446-8.
Translations on this site include:
Joseph Was An Old Man - Version 1 (Southern Appalachia)
Joseph Was An Old Man - Version 2 (Kentucky)
Joseph Was An Old Man - Version 3 (Shaw & Dearmer, English Carol Book)
Joseph Was An Olden Man - Niles (Breathitt County, Kentucky)
Joseph Being An Old Man Truly (Herefordshire)
See: The Cherry Tree Carol - Notes