The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Joseph, Dearest Joseph Mine

Alternate Title: Song of the Crib

Version 1

Additional Versions:
Joseph Dearest Joseph Mine - 2
Joseph Dearest Joseph Mild - 3
Joseph, Dearest Joseph Mine - 4

Words: Traditional German, Josef, Lieber Josef Mein
Originally sung as a lullaby by the Virgin Mary in 16th Century mystery plays in Leipzig, Germany. Trans by Percy Dearmer, 1867-1936

Music: "Resonet in Laudibus" (Let Our Praises Resound), 14th Century German carol;
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer
Another tune was written by Sethus Calvisius [Seth Kalwitz] (1556-1615)

1. "Joseph, Dearest Joseph mine,
Help me cradle the Child divine.
God reward thee and all that’s thine,
In paradise," so prays the mother Mary.

He came among us at Christmas time
At Christmas time in Bethlehem
Men shall bring him from far and wide,
Love’s diadem
Jesus, Jesus;
Lo, he comes and loves and saves and frees us. [1]

2. "Gladly dear one, Lady mine
Help I cradle this Child of thine."
"God’s own light on us both shall shine,
In paradise," as prays the mother Mary. Chorus

3. Servant 1:
Peace to all that have goodwill!
God, who heaven and earth doth fill,
Comes to turn us away from ill,
As all may see In Jesus, Son of Mary. [2] Chorus

4. Servant 2:
All shall come and bow the knee,
Wise and happy their souls shall be.
Loving such a divinity as all may see
In Jesus Son of Mary. Chorus

5. Servant 3:
Now is born Emmanual,
Prophesied once by Ezekiel,
Promised Mary by Gabriel, Ah, who can tell
Thy praises, Son of Mary. Chorus

6. Servant 4:
Thou my lazy heart hast stirred,
Thou, The Father's eternal Word,
Greater than aught that ear hath heard,
Thou tiny bird of love, Thou Son of Mary. Chorus

7. Servant 1:
Sweet and lovely little one,
Thou princely, beautiful, God's own Son,
Without Thee all of us were undone;
Our love is won by Thine, O Son of Mary. Chorus

8. Servant 2:
Little man, and God indeed,
Little and poor, Thou art all we need;
We will follow where Thou dost lead,
And we will heed our brother, born of Mary. Chorus

1. Some versions omit the chorus. Return

2. Some versions have And lies so still within the crib of Mary. Return

William Studwell, The Christmas Carol Reader

The lyrics for this carol were created anonymously in the fourteenth or fifteenth century in Germany for the carol "Joseph, lieber Joseph mein"). By the late fifteenth century,m they were linked with a very lovely anonymous tune which probably was composed in fourteenth-century Germany. One of its earliest appearances was in a mystery play. Before it was affiliated with "Joseph, Dearest" the tune was attached to a well-known Latin carol from the thirteenth- or fourteenth-century Germany, "Resonet in laudibus." The tune was been incorporated into other, modern musical compositions.

Dearmer, Percy, et. al., eds., The Oxford Book of Carols

‘Joseph lieber, Joseph mein, Hilf mir wiegen mein Kindelein’ occurs in a MS. at Leipzig University, c. 1500, as part of a mystery play acted in a church around the crib. It would make today a beautiful little Christmas play for children, Mary and Joseph singing vv 1 and 2, and then the children singing the chorus. In the old arrangment, the chorus was not sung after very verse; the remaining verses can be sung by one or more men and women (servants of the inn), each verse (or the alternate versesw) being followed by the chorus. There are versions in German and Latin (‘Resonet in laudibus’), some without the chorus, in Johan Walther’s Gesangbuch, 1544, Piae Cantiones and elsewhere. The tune was used in polyphonic settings by Lassus, Handl, Praetorius and many others, and Brahms employs it as a viola obbligato in his song ‘Geistliches Wiegenlied’. Our version is that of the Mainzer Cantual, 1605, the harmonies being those of The English Hymnal (612) and Songs of Praise (700), ‘Resonet in laudibus’ being there set to new words.

Keyte, Hugh and Parrot, Andrew, eds., The Shorter New Oxford Book of Carols

[Gives the Latin Resonet in laudibus, followed by the English translation.]

This has long been one of the most popular of all Christmas songs in Germany, where it is sung to two quite distinct texts: ‘Resonet in laudibus’, which dates probably from the fourteenth century, and ‘Joseph, lieber Joseph mein’, which may be even older. Both were associated with the medieval custom of cradle-rocking during the Christmas services.

NOBC setting III (not included here) is an arrangement of the longer version of the tune and text of ‘Resonet in laudibus’ from the Mainz Cantual, 1605.

See NOBC for Magnum Nomen Domini Emanuel (no. 56).

Elizabeth Poston, The Penguin Book of Christmas Carols

Occurs in a MS. at Leipzig of about 1500, as part of a mystery play centered in the Crib. The later sixteenth-century words, taken from a German collection, Antiqua Chorbuch, are characteristic of German love of family life. The tune is a variant of Resonet in laudibus.

William L. Simon, ed., Reader’s Digest Merry Christmas Songbook (1981)

"Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mild" is a lullaby that was sung by the Virgin Mary in a Mystery Play that flourished around Leipzig, Germany, in the early 1500s. The tune was originally sung to a Latin text full of joy, "Resonet in Laudibus " (Let Our Praises Resound), dating from as early as the 14th century. Before that time, carols and other religious songs were danced and sung to primitive tunes and graceless texts. But a new awareness of beauty in worship swept through Europe in the 1500s, thanks in part to the Reformation, and melodies took on an ingratiating texture, while texts issued from the pens of genius poets.

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).

Instrumental sheet music to this and 12 other carols may be downloaded from Sally DeFord Music, (site accessed September 30, 2006). An MP3 of this arrangement is also available at that page.

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