> Shirley Collins > Songs > The Cherry Tree Carol
> Peter Bellamy > Songs > The Cherry Tree Carol
> John Kirkpatrick > Songs > The Cherry Tree Carol
> Waterson:Carthy > Songs > Cherry Tree Carol

The Cherry Tree Carol

[ Roud 453 ; Child 54 ; G/D 2:327 ; Ballad Index C054 ; trad.]

The Cherry Tree Carol is a ballad with the rare distinction of being both a Christmas carol and one of the Child Ballads (#54). The song itself is very old, reportedly being 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 together through the centuries.

Shirley Collins sang The Cherry Tree Carol to her own tune in 1959 on her first LP, Sweet England. and together with Davy Graham in 1964 on their LP Folk Roots, New Routes. She also recorded it in 1969 with the Young Tradition, but the resulting album The Holly Bears the Crown wasn't published until 1995. This track was also included on Shirley Collins' anthologies Within Sound (2002) and The Classic Collection (2004).

Pentangle sang The Cherry Tree Carol in 1972 on their album Solomon's Seal.

John Kirkpatrick sang The Cherry Tree Carol on the albums Among the Many Attractions at the Show Will Be a Really High Class Band (1976), Wassail! A Traditional Celebration of an English Midwinter (1998), and Carolling and Crumpets (2006).

Waterson:Carthy recorded The Cherry Tree Carol for their 2006 album Holy Heathens and the Old Green Man. Martin Carthy commented in the album's sleeve notes:

The Apocryphal Gospels are full of all sorts of stories about the Christ Child; stories of miracles performed as a child, and, in the case of The Cherry Tree Carol, pre partum from the womb. The tune comes from the Mr Robert Hughes, who was in Buckingham Workhouse, and the words, for the most part, from a Mr Thomas in Camborne in Cornwall and the two sit next to each other in Maud Karpeles' fine two volume set of selections from Cecil Sharp's manuscripts.

Lyrics

Shirley Collins sings The Cherry Tree Carol

Joseph was an old man, an old man was he,
When he married Virgin Mary, the Queen of Galilee.

As Mary and Joseph were walking one day
To an orchard of cherry trees they happened to stray.

Then Mary said to Joseph, so meek and so mild,
“Pick me some cherries, Joseph, for I am with child.”

Then Joseph flew angry, so angry flew he,
“Let the father of your baby gather cherries for thee.”

The up spoke Lord Jesus from in his mother's womb,
“Bow low down, cherry trees, bow down to the ground.”

And the cherry trees bowed down, bowed low to the ground,
And Mary gathered cherries while Joseph stood round.

Then Joseph he kneeled down and a question gave he,
“Come tell me, pretty baby, when your birthday shall be.”

“On the fifth day of January my birthday shall be,
And the stars in the heaven shall all bow down to me.”

Waterson:Carthy sing the Cherry Tree Carol

Joseph was an old man, an old man was he,
When he married sweet Mary, she's Queen of Galilee.

Now Joseph had wedded Mary and home had her brought.
Mary proved with child but Joseph knew her not.

Oh, Joseph and Mary went walking in the grove,
They saw cherries and berries as red as any rose.

And up spoke young Mary, so meek and so mild,
“Oh, pick me cherries, Joseph, for I am with child.”

Then Joseph flew in anger, in anger flew he,
“Let the father of your baby pick cherries for thee.”

The up spoke the baby Jesus, all in his mother's womb,
“Bow down low, you cherry tree, let my mother have some.”

And the very tall branches bowed low to her knee,
And Mary picked cherries by one, two and three.

Now Mary had a young son which she dandled on her knee,
“Come tell me, sweet baby, what will this world be?”

“Oh, this world,” he said, “is no other than stones in the street
But the sun, moon, and stars will sail under thy feet.

“And I must not be rocked in silver or gold
But in some wooden cradle like the babes are rocked all.

“And on the sixth day of January my birthday will be,
When the skies and the elements will tremble for me.”