The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Joseph Was An Old Man

For Christmas

The Cherry Tree Carol

Words: English Folk Song, 15th Century

Music: English Folk Tune, 16-18th Century

1. When Joseph was an old man,
And an old man was he;
He wedded virgin Mary,
The Queen of Galilee.
He wedded virgin Mary,
The Queen of Galilee.

2. When Joseph was married,
And brought Mary home;
Mary was with child
And Joseph hadn't known.
Mary was with child
And Joseph hadn't known.

3. As they went a-walking
In the garden so green;
There were cherries and berries
Hanging from a tree.
There were cherries and berries
Hanging from a tree.

4. Up then spoke Mary
So meek and so mild;
Saying “Joseph pluck some cherries
For I am with child.”
Saying “Joseph pluck some cherries
For I am with child.”

5. In anger spoke Joseph,
In anger spoke he,
“Let the father of your baby
Pluck cherries for thee.”
“Let the father of your baby
Pluck cherries for thee.”

6. Then out spoke baby Jesus
From his mother's womb,
“Mary shall have cherries
And Joseph shall have none.”
“Mary shall have cherries
And Joseph shall have none.”

7. And down bowed the cherry tree
All down to the ground;
And Mary plucked cherries
While Joseph stood around.
And Mary plucked cherries
While Joseph stood around.

8. As Joseph was a-walking
He heard Angels sing.
“This night there shall be born
Our heavenly King.”
“This night there shall be born
Our heavenly King.”

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

Print Page Return Home Page Close Window