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Joseph was an old man

Language: English

[Joseph was an old man,
  and an old man was he,
And he married Mary,
  the Queen of Galilee.]

When Joseph was married,
  and Mary home had brought,
Mary proved with child,
  and Joseph knew it not.

[Joseph and Mary walked
  through a garden gay,
Where the cherries they grew
  upon every tree.

O then bespoke Mary,
  with words both meek and mild:
'O gather me cherries, Joseph,
  they run so in my mind.'

And then replied Joseph,
  with words so unkind:
'Let him gather thee cherries
  that got thee with child.'

O then bespoke our Saviour,
  all in his mother's womb:
'Bow down, good cherry-tree,
  to my mother's hand.'

The uppermost sprig
  bowed down to Mary's knee:
'Thus you may see, Joseph,
  these cherries are for me.']1

'O eat your cherries, Mary,
  O eat your cherries now;
O eat your cherries, Mary,
  that grow upon the bough.'

As Joseph was a walking,
  he heard an angel sing:
'This night shall be born
  our heavenly king.

'He neither shall be born
  in housen nor in hall,
Nor in the place of Paradise,
  but in an ox's stall.

'He neither shall be clothed
  in purple nor in pall,
But all in fair linen,
  as were babies all.

'He neither shall be rocked
  in silver nor in gold,
But in a wooden cradle,
  that rocks on the mould.

'He neither shall be christened
  in white wine nor red,
But with fair spring water,
  with which we were christened.'

[Then Mary took her young son,
  and set him on her knee:
'I pray thee now dear child,
  tell how this world shall be.'

'O I shall be as dead, mother,
  as the stones in the wall;
O the stones in the street, mother,
  shall mourn for me all.]

'And upon a Wednesday
  my vow I will make,
And upon Good Friday
  my death I will take.

['Upon Easter-day, mother,
  my rising shall be;
O the sun and the moon
  shall uprise with me.]2

'The people shall rejoice,
  and the birds they shall sing,
To see the uprising
  of the heavenly king.'

J. Edmunds sets stanzas 14, 15, 17 in (at least) one setting - see below for more information
J. Edmunds sets stanzas 1, 3-7 in (at least) one setting - see below for more information

About the headline (FAQ)

View original text (without footnotes)

Confirmed with English and Scottish Popular Ballads, edited from the collection of Francis James Child by Helen Child Sargent and George Lyman Kittredge, Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1904, pages 99-100.

1 Edmunds sets stanzas 1, 3-7 as "The Ballad of the Cherry Tree"
2 Edmunds sets stanzas 14, 15, 17 as "The Resurrection"

Submitted by Garrett Medlock [Guest Editor]


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Text added to the website: 2019-02-07.
Last modified: 2019-02-07 15:44:43
Line count: 72
Word count: 348

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