The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

When Righteous Joseph Wedded Was

For Christmas

Alternate Title
The Angell Gabriel, his Salutation to the blessed Virgin MARY

Words and Music: English Traditional not later than 1639.

To the tune of The Blazing Torch.
[See vol. i. p. 418.]

Broadside Printed for F. Coles, T. Vere and W. Gilbertson. [1658-1664]

Source: Research of the late Bruce Olson.

When righteous Joseph wedded was
to Israels Hebrew maid,
A glorious Angel came from Heaven,
who to the Virgin said:
Hail blessed Mary full of grace,
the Lord remains in thee:
Thou shalt conceive and bear a Son
thy Saviour to be.

That's wonderous strange quothe Mary then
I should conceive and breed,
Being never toucht my mortal man,
but pure in thought and deed.
Fear not, quoth Gabriel by and by
it is no work of man:
But only God's, ordain'd at first
before the world began.

Which heavenly message she believes,
and did to Jury go, [Jerusalem
Three moneths with her friends to stay
Gods blessed will to show:
And then return'd with Joseph back,
her Husband meek and mild,
Wh thought it strange his wife should be
untoucht, thus grown with child.

Wherefore (thought he) to shun that shame
he thought her to forsake:
But that Gods Angel in his sleep
Gods mind did undertake.
Fear not just Joseph this thy wife
is still a spotless Maid,
And no consent to sin (quoth he)
against her can be laid.

For she is purely Maid and Wife,
the mother of Gods own heir,
The Babe of Heaven, and blessed Lamb,
of Israels stock so fair:
To save lost sheep to Satan sold,
whom Adam lost by fraud,
When first in Edens Paradise
the Lord had them bestow'd.

Thus Mary with her Husband kind,
together did remain,
Until the time of Iesus birth
as Scripture doth make plain.
Thus Mother, Wife and Virgin pure,
our Saviour sweet conceiv'd,
All three in one to bring us joy,
of which we were bereav'd.

Sing praises then both old and young,
to him which wrought such things,
That thus without the help of man
sent us the King of Kings:
Which is of such a blessed power,
that with his word can quell
The World, the Flesh, and by his Death
could conquer death and hell.

Note: This carol was found by the late Bruce Olson and was published on his web site.

Notes from Olson:

The Cherry Tree Carol is well known, but there is another traditional carol giving a more orthodox account of the events leading the the birth of Christ. Several traditional versions, called "Christmas Mummer's Carol", with tunes are in Journal of the Folk-Song Society, Vol. II, p. 128-29, London, 1905 [Roud #1066]. Here, however, is the text from the earliest 17th century broadside issue extant.

This is the ballad entered in the Stationers' Register on Feb. 22, 1639 as "A Christmas Carol called the righteous Joseph". There is a copy in Sandy's Carols, 1833.

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:

The printers mentioned above F. Coles, T. Vere and W. Gilbertson   were in various partnerships during this period. There was a note in Olson's file that stated: "After a few years lapse, the printers company of J. Wright, J. Grismond, C. Wright, E. Wright, J. Gosson and F. Coles caught up a bit by entering 23 ballads in the Stationers' Register on June 1, 1629."

The names of these gentlemen appear in various combinations during the 1600s.

Concerning the tune to "The Blazing Torch," there was no music at Vol. 1, p. 418 [Roxburghe Ballads, Chappell?]. The ballad there was titled "A good Wife, or none, | To A Pleasant New Tune," which was originally located Roxburghe Collection, Vol. I. pp. 140, 141. A note on page 417 explained the popularity of the ballad and its tune:

This ballad was very popular, and its "pleasing new tune" acquired the name of The blazing Torch, or The glazing Torch, from its association with this ballad.

The copy in the Rawlinson Collection (No. 198) was printed for Coles, Vere, and Wright: and that in the Pepys Collection (IV. p. 49) for Coles, Vere, Wright, and Clarke. Both these commence "The glazing torch" (glazing = shining), but the Roxburghe, which is older, has "blazing."

The subject of the ballad is fully explained by its title, "A good wife, or none" = she who shines not upon all, but one.

After locating the Roxburghe 1.140-141 Broadside at the English Broadside Ballad Archive (EBBA), I can report that it did not publish the tune to the song. In fact, I was unable to locate any Broadside that cited this song as its tune that also contained the sheet music.

Preview of Roxburghe 1.140-141 Image rox_1_140-141_2448x2448.jpg

Although there is a copy of this carol in Sandys 1833, it is not an exact copy. See: When Righteous Joseph Wedded Was.

The Pepys Collection (Pepys 4.49) also contains a Broadside that contains "A Good Wife, or None." That Broadside was printed by F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and J. Clarke (1674-1679).

4.49? 1.474? 2.0027? 2.0029?

Euing_1_126_2448x2448.jpg (3031928 bytes)A Broadside containing "When Righteous Joseph Wedded Was," to the tune of "The Blazing Torch," was found in the Euing Collection, 126, printed for F. Coles, T. Vere and W. Gilbertson.

Pepys_2_0030_2448x2448.jpg (2027736 bytes)A copy of "When Righteous Joseph" is also found in the Pepys Collection, 2.230, to the tune of "The Blazing Torch," printed for W. Thackeray and T. Passinger.

Both of these Broadsides has the same companion carol, A Dozen of Points, a ballad that offered Christians a manner in which to examine their consciences, reflecting an older tradition where the Second Coming had greater prominence during the Advent. Other Christmas-tide carols contained similar companion carols, such as "A Religious Man's Exhortation" (Roxburghe 2.400).

At this time, I was unable to locate a copy of "When Righteous Joseph Wedded Was" from the Roxburghe Collection at the English Broadside Ballad Archive, University of California, Santa Barbara. However, a copy of the text is contained in Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth, ed., The Roxburghe Ballads. Part XX., Vol. VII. (Hertford: Printed for the Ballad Society By Stephen Austin and Sons, 1871, 1890), p. 777.

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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