The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Righteous Joseph

For Christmas

Words: English Traditional

Music: English Traditional

Meter: 86 86

Source: G. Walters, A Good Christmas Box (Dudley: G. Walters, 1847; reprinted Ashley: Michael Raven, 2007), p. 19.

When righteous Joseph wedded was
Unto a virtuous maid,
A glorious angel came from heaven,
And to the virgin said –

“Hail blessed Mary, full of grace,
The Lord remains with thee,
Thou shalt conceive and bear a Son,
Man's Saviour he shall be.”

'Tis wondrous strange, quoth Mary, then,
I should conceive and breed,
Who ne'er was touched by mortal man,
In word, or thought, or deed.

When Joseph he returned
To Mary, meek and mild,
He wondered strangely at his wife,
To see her big with child.

God's messenger she did believe,
And is to Jerusalem gone,
Three months with her friends to stay,
God's blessed will be done.

Thus spoke the angel Gabriel,k
This is not the work of man,
It is by God's ordained will,
E'er since the world began.

She's mother, maid and married wife,
By Jesu's birth befel,
And by his power and by his grace,
He'll conquer death and hell.

O Joseph do not blame your wife,
She's still a virtuous maid;
For no consent to any sin,
Against her can be laid.

Editor's Note:

This very old carol was found in several collections of English Broadsides. These Broadsides are frequently an important source for collectors, together with the recollections of local singers and musicians. There are four "Broadside" versions of "When Righteous Joseph" available on this web site, plus versions of this song published in several carol collections. Versions on this site include:

This was 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.

See: Christmas Mummers' Carol - Broadwood (Journal of the Folk Song Society, Vol. 2, 1905)

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