The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Cherry Tree Carol

Words and Music: Unknown
See: The Cherry Tree Carol - Notes

Source: William Hone, Ancient Mysteries Described (1823, p. 90 ante.); reprinted by Ward Lock Reprints, Redwood Press Limited, Trowbridge & London, 1970.

Hone's version differs significantly from that reproduced by Sandys. He confirms its origin in the Coventry Plays, citing the Cotton Manuscript in the British Museum, Mystery VIII.

Hone writes:

"Mary's longing for the fruit on the cherry tree, and Joseph's refusal to gather it for her on the return of his jealousy, a remarkable scene in one of the Coventry Plays (Mystery VIII), is the subject of a Christmas Carol still sung in London and in many parts of England.

"From various copies of it printed at different places, I am enable to present the following version:

1. Joseph was an old man
And an old man was he,
And he married Mary,
Queen of Galilee.

2. When Joseph got married,
And his cousin Mary got,
Mary proved big with child,
By whom Joseph knew not.

3. As Joseph and Mary
Walk'd through the garden gay,
Where the cherries grew
Upon every tree;

4. O! then bespoke Mary,
With words both meek and mild,
'Gather me some cherries, Joseph,
Then run so in my mind;
Gather me some cherries,
For I am with child.'

5. O! then bespoke Joseph,
With words most unkind,
'Let him gather thee cherries,
That got thee with child.'

6. O! then bespoke Jesus,
All in his mother's womb,
'Go to the tree, Mary,
And it shall bow down;

7. 'Go to the tree Mary,
And it shall bow to thee,
And the highest branch of all
Shall bow down to Mary's knee,

8. 'And she shall gather cherries
By one, by two, by three,'
'Now you may see Joseph,
Those cherries were for me.'

9. O! eat your Cherries, Mary;
O! eat your Cherries now;
O! eat your Cherries, Mary,
That grow on the bough.

10. As Joseph was a walking,
He heard an angel sing -
'This night shall be born
Our heavenly kind;

11. 'He neither shall be born
In housen, nor in hall,
Nor in the place of Paradise,
But in an ox's stall;

12. He neither shall be clothed,
In purple nor in pall
But all in fair linen,
As were babies all:

13. 'He neither shall be rock'd
In silver nor in gold
But in a wooden cradle,
That rocks on the mould;

14. 'He neither shall be christen'd
In white wine nor in red,
But with the spring water
With which were christened.

15. Then Mary took her young Son,
And set him on her knee-
'I pray thee now, dear Child,
Tell how this world shall be?'

16. 'This world shall be like
The stones in the street,
For the sun and the moon
Shall bow down at thy feet;

17. 'And upon a Wednesday
My vow I will make,
And upon Good Friday
My death I will take;

18. 'And upon the third day
My uprising shall be,
And the sun and the moon
Shall rise up with me.'

"The admiration of my earliest days, for some lines in the Cherry carol still remains, nor can I help thinking that the reader will see somewhat of the cause for it: --

"He neither shall be clothed, in purple nor in pall
But all in fair linen, as were babies all:
'He neither shall be rock'd in silver nor in gold
But in a wooden cradle, That rocks on the mould;"

Editor's Note: See, generally, Corpus Christi Day and the Performance of Mysteries, from William Hone, The Every Day Book, 2 Vols. London: William Tegg, 1825, 1827 (Volume 1, June 2).

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