The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Joseph Was An Old Man
Journal of the Folk-Song Society, Vol, III, 1909

Source: Journal of the Folk=Song Society. No. 13. Being the Fourth and Final Part of Vol. III. (London: Printed Privately For the Members of the Society by Barnicott and Pearce, at the Wessex Press, Taunton, June, 1909), pp. 260-263, republished in Journal of the Folk-Song Society. Volume III. 1908-1909. (London: Printed for the Society by Barnicott and Pearce, at the Wessex Press, Taunton, 1909).

See Also: The Cherry Tree Carol - Notes



Noted by Charles Gamblin, Winchester

Sung by Mrs. Davey, (circa 60),
Alresford, Hants, Nov., 1907.

Joseph was an old man and an old man was he,
He married his cousin the Queen of Galilee.

Variants noted by R. Vaughan Williams, Jan., 1909.


For texts of this carol see Child's English and Scottish Popular Ballads, No. 54. -- G. B. G.

Editor's Note: See: Child, #54, The Cherry-Tree Carol Note

This carol is a well-known one, and occurs in most penny carol-books sold in Leeds. A version of the tune appears in Bramley and Stainer's collection [Christmas Carols New and Old], and in earlier books. It is generally called " The Cherry Tree Carol," from the chief incident in the story. -- F. K.

The "Cherry Tree" portion of the carol (which is one of the few carols printed by Child in his Popular Ballads) is founded upon the Pseudo-Matthew's Gospel, chapter xx. The incident also occurs in No. viii of the " Ancient Mysteries " printed by Hone. (Mystery viii is No. 15 of the pageants produced by the Grey Friars at Coventry). [See: The Cherry Tree Carol - Hone] The earliest printed tune which I have seen for this carol is the one given in Sandys' Christmas Carols, 1833. Like several other tunes in the same collection, it appears to be wrongly noted. (I think it should be barred in triple, not common, time). The same tune re-appears in Husk's Songs of the Nativity; a solution of the wrong notation is there attempted, but still in common time. Dr. Gardiner's tune seems to be a fragment of the traditional tune to A Virgin Most Pure in Davies Gilbert's Ancient Carols, 1823, and, as a variant, corresponds with the refrain of this. -- A. G. G.

The carol is still sung in Gloucestershire. The words are printed on the "Divine Mirth" broadsides by Evans and Pitts. -- C. J. S.


(From Morn to Morn.)

Noted by R. Vaughan Williams.

Sung by Mr. Daniel Wigg, (AET. 84),
Preston Candover, by Alresford, Hants, Jan., 1909.

God bless the master of this house
And send him long to reign;
When e'er he walks, where e'er he rides,
Lord Jesus be his guide
Lord Jesus be his guide.




God bless the master of this house
And send him long to reign ;
Where'er he walks, where'er he rides,
Lord Jesus be his guide. Lord Jesus be his guide.

God bless the mistress of this house,
With a gold chain round her breast ;
Amongst her friends and kindered,
God send her soul to rest, God send her soul to rest.

From morn to morn, remember thou.
When first our Christ was born,
He was crucified between two thieves,
And crowned with the thorn, and crowned with the thorn.

From morn to morn, remember thou,
When Christ laid on the rood,
'Twas for our sins and wickedness
Christ shed His precious blood, Christ shed His precious blood.

From morn to morn, remember thou,
As Christ was wropped in clay.
He was put into some sepulchre.
Where never no man lay, where never no man lay.

God bless the ruler of this house.
And send him long to reign ;
And many a merry Christmas
We may live to see again, we may live to see again.

Now I've said my carol.
Which I intend to do,
God bless us all both great and small
And send us a happy new year.

Cf. the Sussex Mummer's Carol [Journal, Vol. ii, No. 7, p. 128, also English Traditional Songs and Carols) for another form of the same tune. This is evidently the carol-air "arranged" by Arthur Sullivan to form his tune "Noel" (to the Christmas hymn " It came upon the midnight clear.") Sullivan's copy (presumably a traditional one) may, however, have been nearer to his own tune than these forms. A West Sussex variant very like Dr. Gardiner's tune was recently sent to me by the Rev. H. Peckham, Nutley, Uckfield. In the accompanying verses the mistress of the house is said to have "freedom on her breast " -- a puzzling corruption. It may be pointed out that the verse about " righteous Joseph," with which this carol sometimes begins, has no real connection with it, but belongs properly to the carol beginning "When righteous Joseph wedded was To Israel's Hebrew Maid" -- a carol which deals with the Annunciation, Joseph's doubt, and his re-assurance, during sleep, by "God's angel." Both carols seem to have been sung to the same tune, ("Oh, mortal man " is probably the older of the two). Although at first sight there appears little connection between Sandys' tune to "Righteous Joseph " and Dr. Gardiner's "God bless the Master," on examination Sandys' "Righteous Joseph" will, I think, show itself to be an eight-line and more elaborate form of Dr. Gardiner's tune. Mr. H. Balfour Gardiner's tune (Journal, Vol. ii, No. 7, p. 130) should also be compared with Sandys' version. All these tunes are evidently connected with each other. -- A, G. G.



Communicated by the Rev. H. Peckham. Formerly sung at Aldingbourne, Sussex.

God bless the master of this house
with great prosperity
And whether he walk or whether he ride
Lord Jesus be his guide
And Lord Jesus be his guide.



Sandys' Christmas Carols, 1833.

When righteous Joseph wedded was
    To Israel's Hebrew maid,
A glorious Angel from Heaven came,
    Who to the Virgin said:
Hail, blessed Mary, full of grace,
    The Lord remain with thee,
Thou shalt conceive and bear a Son,
    Our Saviour for to be.

Editor's Note: For the complete text and sheet music from Sandys, please see: Joseph Was An Old Man.

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