The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Joseph Being An Old Man Truly

For Christmas

From the Cherry Tree Carols Tradition

Words: Anonymous, collected R. Vaughan Williams, 1872-1958

Tune: Herefordshire Traditional, Anonymous, arr. Elizabeth Poston

From Elizabeth Poston, The Penguin Book of Carols (Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1965)

R. Vaughan Williams recounts that for the sake of this lovely tune he collected at Weobley in Herefordshire, there sung to him with poor words, he set to it these words from Sandys, in which form it can none the less be classed as one of our most endearing folk carols. The singing should follow flexibly the gentle narrative in a tune as rounded and shapely as the Herefordshire hills.

1. O, Joseph being an old man truly,
He married a virgin fair and free;
A purer virgin could no man see
Than he chose for his wife and his dearest dear.

2 They lived both in joy and bliss;
But now a strict commandment is,
In Jewry-land no man should miss
To go along with his dearest dear

3. Unto the place where he was born,
Unto the Emperor to be sworn,
To pay a tribute that's duly known,
Both for himself and his dearest dear.

4. And when they were to Bethlehem come,
The inns were filled, both all and some;
For Joseph entreated them, every one,
Both for himself and his dearest dear.

5. Then they were constrained presently
Within a stable all night to lie,
Where they did oxen and asses tie,
With his true love and his dearest dear.

6. The king of all power was in Bethlehem born,
Who wore for our sakes a crown of thorn,
Then God preserve us both even and morn
For Jesus' sake, our dearest dear.

Sheet Music from Hutchins, Carols Old and Carols New (1916), Carol 563
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer

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

If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.

Related Hymns and Carols