The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

When Righteous Joseph Wedded Was

Alternate Title
The Angel Gabriel: His Salutation To The Blessed Virgin Mary.

Words and Music: English Traditional

To the tune of The Mating Torch is soon burnt out.
[See vol. i. p. 418.]

Broadside Printed for F. Coles, T. Vere, J. Wright, and I. Clark.

Source: Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth, ed., The Roxburghe Ballads. Vol. VII. Part I. (Hertford: Printed for the Ballad Society By Stephen Austin and Sons, 1871, 1890), p. 779.

When righteous Joseph wed[d]ed was to Israel's 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 wondrous strange," quoth Mary then, "I should conceive and breed,
Being never toucht by 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 [ = Jewry = Judea.
Three mon[e]ths with her friends to stay, God's blessed will to show;
And then return'd to Joseph back, her husband meek and mild,
Who thought it strange his wife should be, untoucht, thus grown with child.

Wherefore (though he) to shun that shame, he thought her to forsake:
But that God's Angel in his sleep God's 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 God's own Heir,
The babe of Heaven, and blessed Lamb of Israel's stock so fair,
To save lost sheep to Satan sold, whom Adam lost by fraud,
When first in Eden's Paradise the Lord had him bestow'd."

Thus Mary with her husband kind together did remain,
Until the time of Jesus birth, as Scriptures 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 this King of Kings.
Which is of such a blessed power, that with his word can quell
The woild, the flush; and by his death could conquer Death and Hell.


At the top of the page was this notice:

Lost before 1788, from Roxburghe Coll., II. 577; Rawlinson, 566, fol. 176; Pepys, II. 30, Euing, 126.

At the bottom of the page is this paragraph:

In Black-letter. Woodcut of Madonna and child, mentioned on p. 786. Corrected by a better Black-letter early impression, dated 1661, in New Carolls for this merry time of Christmas, to sundry pleasant tunes, with new Additions never before printed, to be sung to delight the Hearers. London, printed by H. B. for Andrew Kemb, and are to be sold at his shop, near Saint Margaret's Hill, in Southwark, 1661. The Rawlinson exemplar mis-reads, "to shun the same" for "shun the shame," and is mutilated in final stanzas. The Pepysian II. 30, is printed for W. Thackeray and T. Passinger: and Euing, 126, for Coles, Vere, and Gilbertson: three separate issues. In all these extant survivals, on the same sheet is 'A Dozen of Points;' of date before 1624: see p. 780.

Editor's Note: There was no woodcut mentioned in p. 786 matching the description of "Madonna and child," or on any of the pages within this group. The woodcut mentioned on p. 786 was concerning the Magi, and occurs on the next page.

There are two copies of the companion carol to these:

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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