The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Joseph Was An Old Man

For Christmas

The Cherry Tree Carol

Part 1, Version 3

Words: Traditional

Music: Traditional
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Source: Martin Shaw and Percy Dearmer, The English Carol Book, First Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co. Ltd., 1913), Carol #6

1. Joseph was an old man
And an old man was he,
When he married Mary
In the land of Galilee

2. And as they were walking
Through an orchard so good,
Where were cherries and berries
As red as any blood –

3. O then bespoke Mary,
With words both meek and mild,
“Pluck me one cherry, Joseph;
For that I am with child.”

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

5. Go to the tree, Mary,
And it shall bow to thee;
And you shall gather cherries
By one, by two, by three.”

6. Then bowed down the highest tree
Unto his Mother's hand;
“See,” Mary cried, “see, Joseph,
I have cherries at command.”

7. “O eat your cherries, Mary,
O eat your cherries, now;
O eat your cherries, Mary,
That grow upon the bough.”

8. As Joseph was a-walking
There did an angel sing;
And Mary's child at midnight
Was born to be our King.

Shaw and Dearmer's Note:

This version differs from many of the older examples of this carol, in that Joseph, not the unborn Jesus, commands the Cherry tree to bow to Mary. Additionally, there is not the germ of jealously exhibited by Joseph in this version that is found in earlier samples.

Sheet Music: Martin Shaw and Percy Dearmer, The English Carol Book, First Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1913), Carol #6

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:

See: The Cherry Tree Carol - Notes

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