The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

As Joseph Was A Walking

For Christmas

Words and Music: English Traditional

Source: William Wallace Fyfe, Christmas: Its Customs and Carols (London: James Blackwood, 1860, 1863), pp. 130-132.

See: The Cherry Tree Carol - Notes

The Legend of Joseph and the Angel

As Joseph was a walking,
    He heard an angel sing;
His song was on the coming
    Of Christ, our Saviour King.

The good man, long dejected,
    Had knelt to Him who hears.
The blest refrain now swelling
    Removes his doubts and fears.
Be not afraid when hearing
    The choirs seraphic sing;
This night shall be the birthtide
    Of Christ the Heavenly King.
He neither shall in housen
    Be born, nor yet in hall;
Nor bed, nor downy pillow,
    But in an oxen stall.
He neither shall be clothed
    In purple nor in pall,
But in the fair white linen
    That usen babies all.
"He neither shall be rocked 
    In silver nor in gold; 
But in a wooden manger, 
    That resteth on the mould." 

As Joseph was a walking, 
    Thus did an angel sing; 
At night the mother-maiden 
    Gave birth to Christ our King. 

The blessed virgin wrapt him 
    From nightly winds so wild; 
The lowly manger held Him, 
    Her wondrous, holy child. 

And marshall'd on the mountain, 
    The angels raise their song; 
The shepherds hear the story 
    In anthems clear and strong. 

The herald-hymn obeying, 
    Nor loth, nor yet afraid, 
They seek the lowly dwelling, 
    And find the blessed babe. 

Then be ye glad, good people, 
    This night, of all the year; 
And light ye up your candles, 
    His star it shineth near. 

And all in earth and heaven 
    Our Christmas Carol sing: 
Goodwill, And Peace, And Glory. 
    And all the bells shall ring.
Editor's Note:

He introduced this 12-verse carol with:

The most poetic times have most greedily adopted the most incoherent fictions, giving credit to tales like "Jack the Giant Killer" and " Blue Beard;" as we perhaps would, many of us, do now, provided the narrators would date them from the fourteenth century. Thus it was that legends like those of "Joseph And The Angel" were rapidly superinduced upon the tale of the "divine tidings" of the Nativity. As an example of Carol poetry in all its unsuspecting simplicity, it certainly cannot be surpassed.

His final text concerning this carol was:

The "ringing of bells" is an addition to the message of "Goodwill, and peace, and glory," which clearly betrays its having passed through the ecclesiastical alembic. It will be seen that the foregoing Carol beautifully embodies an unsophisticated narrative of the events of the Nativity. "He neither shall be clothed in purple, nor in pall," &c, may be taken as the ne plus ultra of the Carol stave.

Sheet Music to "The Legend of Joseph And The Angel" from Fyfe, pp. 130-131.
Fyfe-Joseph_Angel-130-1863.jpg (78379 bytes) Fyfe-Joseph_Angel-131-1863.jpg (50010 bytes) Fyfe-Joseph_Angel-132-1863.jpg (42198 bytes)

And another version is said to have been captured by Edward F. Rimbault, Collection of Old English Carols (1861). I have been unable to gain access to Rimbault's collection, but will keep looking.

 

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