The Cherry Tree Carol

TITLE: The Cherry Tree Carol
AUTHOR: unknown
CATEGORY: Traditional, Public Domain
KEYWORDS: carol, Jesus, religious
EARLIEST PRINTED OR RECORDED REFERENCE: 1768 (Gilbert MS)

In 1823, William Hone wrote “The admiration of my earliest days, for some lines in the Cherry carol still remains, nor can I help thinking that the reader will see somewhat of the cause for it:

“He neither shall be clothed, in purple nor in pall
But all in fair linen, as were babies all:
‘He neither shall be rock’d in silver nor in gold
But in a wooden cradle, That rocks on the mould;”

71194_Cherry Tree illustrationEven then, this was an old carol, dating to the Coventry Plays performed during the Feast of Corpus Christi, ca. 1400,1 and more than 400 years later, Hone reports, the carol is “still sung in London, and many parts of England.” Joshua Sylvestre also noted in 1861 at this carol is “still sung in many parts of the country.” In 1868, William Henry Husk wrote “This carol has long been a favorite with the people, and is met with on broadsides printed in all parts of England.”

And in approximately 1884, The Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, while teaching carols to a party of mill-girls, began to relate the carol by Dr. H. J. Gauntlett, “Saint Joseph was a-walking,” [As Joseph Was A Walking] when they interrupted him, saying “’Nay ! we know one a deal better nor yond;’ and, lifting up their voices, they sang, to a curious old strain, [The Cherry Tree Carol]. (from a great article from Hymns and Carols of Christmas)

OTHER TITLES AND VARIATIONS:

  • The Carol of the Cherry Tree
  • The Cherry Tree
  • Joseph and Mary
  • The Sixth of January

RECORDINGS: (mp3’s available through Amazon.com)

YOUTUBE VIDEO:

YOUTUBE AUDIO: download
LYRIC & CHORD PRO CHART: download
PPT LYRICS FOR THE CLASSROOM: download
BONUS YOUTUBE VIDEO: Sting

Cherry Tree Carol

When Joseph was an old man,
An old man was he,
He courted Virgin Mary
The Queen of Galilee,
He courted Virgin Mary,
The Queen of Galilee.

As Joseph and Mary
We’re walking one day,
“Here are apples and cherries,’
Oh, Mary did say.
“Here are apples and cherries,’
Oh, Mary did say.

When Mary spoke to Joseph,
So meek and so mild,
“Joseph, gather me some cherries
For I am with child….”
“Joseph, gather me some cherries
For I am with child….”

Then Joseph flew in anger –
In anger flew he,
“Let the father of the baby
Gather cherries for thee!”
“Let the father of the baby
Gather cherries for thee!”

Then up spoke baby Jesus,
All in his mother’s womb,
“Bow down you tallest tree
That my mother might have some.”
“Bow down you tallest tree
That my mother might have some.”

So bent down the tallest tree
To touch Mary’s hand
Said she, oh look now Joseph,
I have cherries at command
Said she, oh look now Joseph,
I have cherries at command

As Joseph was a-walking
He heard the Angels sing,
This night there shall be born
Our heavenly king.
This night there shall be born
Our heavenly king.

“He neither shall be born
In house nor in hall,
Nor in the place of Paradise,
But in an ox-stall.
Nor in the place of Paradise,
But in an ox-stall.

“He shall not be clothed
In Purple nor pall;
But all in fair linen,
As wear babies all.
But all in fair linen,
As wear babies all.

“He shall not be rocked,
In silver nor gold,
But in a wooden cradle
That rocks on the mould.
But in a wooden cradle
That rocks on the mould.

“He neither shall be christened
In milk, nor in wine,
But in pure spring -well water
Fresh sprung from Bethine.”
But in pure spring -well water
Fresh sprung from Bethine.”

Mary took her Baby,
She dressed him so sweet,
She laid Him in a manger
All there for to sleep.
She laid Him in a manger
All there for to sleep.

As she stood over Him
She heard Angels sing,
“Oh! bless our dear Savior,
Our heavenly King.”
“Oh! bless our dear Savior,
Our heavenly King.”

SOURCES:

  • Folk Song Index: A Comprehensive Guide to the Florence E. Brunnings Collection, Florence E. Brunnings, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London 1981—Amazon Books
  • Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music, Guthrie T. Meade, Jr. with Dick Spottswood and Douglas S. Meade, Southern Folklife Collection, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries, NC 2002—Amazon Books
  • Blues and Gospel Records 1902-1943, John Goodrich and Robert M.W. Dixon, Storyville Publications and Company, London Revised 1969.

SONGBOOKS:

NOTICE: I’m not the best guitar player or vocalist, but no one loves these songs more than I do. The tune and lyrics are in the public domain unless otherwise noted. The recording © copyright 2013 by Stephen Griffith and may be used by permission of the copyright holder. The variation of the song I’m posting is the version I perform and is not exactly replicating the sources cited, but is always in the same song family. If anyone has more details about this song, or believes I’ve stated something in error, please let me know. I’m also open to suggestions to improve the site. Thanks. sgg

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