Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"The Cherry Tree Carol"

       "The Cherry-Tree Carol" is a ballad with the rare distinction of being both a Christmas carol and one of the Child Ballads (no. 54). The song itself is very old, reportedly sung in some form at the Feast of Corpus Christi in the early 15th century. The versions eventually collected by Francis James Child are thought to be a combination of up to three separate carols that merged through the centuries.

"Judy Collins suns this traditional nativity ballad, thought to date back to the 15th century. The story tells of the fetus Jesus performing a miracle by lowering the bow of a cherry tree so that Mary can reach and pick the fruit. This clip comes from a 1996 performance at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, available on the 1997 DVD release titled "Judy Collins - Christmas at the Biltmore Estate." Look for more clips from the concert here on YouTube's Judy Collins Channel."

Angels did appear to Joseph to explain to him what was transpiring in his life and he shared this with Mary and others. So in his defense I have referenced the scripture. However, the carol is still quite lovely, however inaccurate it may be. (smile) The implications here are that Joseph actually had frequent directions from angels.

"But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit." Matthew 1:20

"When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." Matthew 2:13 

       And also the name of Joseph carries big news in scripture; any man selected by God and given the name is in for an unusual life story according to the Bible. The name literally means "to add to or give increase." 

       The ballad, "The Cherry Tree Carol," relates an apocryphal story of the Virgin Mary, presumably while traveling to Bethlehem with Joseph for the census. In the most popular version, the two stop in a cherry orchard, and Mary asks her husband to pick cherries for her, citing her child. Joseph spitefully tells Mary to let the child's father pick her cherries.
       At this point in most versions, the infant Jesus, from the womb, speaks to the tree and commands it to lower a branch down to Mary, which it does. Joseph, witnessing this miracle, immediately repents his harsh words. The more contemporary versions sometimes end here, while others often include an angel appearing to Joseph and telling him of the circumstances of Jesus's birth. Other versions then jump ahead several years, where the next verse picks up with Jesus on his mother's lap, telling her of his eventual death and resurrection. Read more...


       "Among recent additions to the list of American versions of British ballads is "The Cherry-Tree" (Child, No. 54). This quaint and beautiful carol was found by the present writer in the mountain region of Kentucky near Hindman, Knott County.
       The text is based on an apochryphal story in the Pseudo-Matthew Gospel, xx. The earliest English version is to be found in the fifteenth-century mysteries, where, as in all English versions, the
cherry-tree figures. In some Continental versions the date-tree, which has the authority of the Apochrypha, is preserved (see Child).
       Significant in connection with the last stanza is the fact that in certain sections of the Kentucky mountains Christmas is still celebrated on January the sixth (Old Christmas) Louisville, Ky." Josephine McGill

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

As Joseph and Mary
Were walking one day:
" Here are apples, here are cherries
Enough to behold."

Then Mary spoke to Joseph
So meek and so mild:
"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."

Then Jesus spoke a few words,
A few words spoke he:
"Let my mother have some cherries;
Bow low down, cherry-tree."

The cherry-tree bowed low down,
Bowed low down to the ground,
And Mary gathered cherries
While Joseph stood around.

Then Joseph took Mary
All on his right knee:
"O, what have I done?
Lord have mercy on me!"

Then Joseph took Mary all,
All on his left knee:
"O, tell me, little baby,
When thy birthday will be."

"On the sixth day of January
My birthday will be,
When the stars in the elements
Shall tremble with glee."

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