Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sunday Poetry - The Cherry Tree Carol

I always feature Christmas carols in December as I spend a lot of time listening to them. Yesterday I mixed up my Christmas pudding, ready to steam today, & put up the Christmas tree. I needed to listen to carols about snow & ice as it was 30C outside. This one, The Cherry Tree Carol, isn't particularly wintry but it is one of the very oldest & I've always loved it. It transports Joseph & Mary from the Middle East to an English cherry orchard. The carol may have its origins in the medieval mystery plays but there are many variations in the words & the tune. Here's a lovely version, sung by the Choir of King's College.

Joseph was an old man,   
  And an old man was he,   
When he wedded Mary   
  In the land of Galilee.   

Joseph and Mary walk’d           
  Through an orchard good,   
Where was cherries and berries   
  So red as any blood.   

Joseph and Mary walk’d   
  Through an orchard green,           
Where was berries and cherries   
  As thick as might be seen.   

O then bespoke Mary,   
  So meek and so mild,   
‘Pluck me one cherry, Joseph,           
  For I am with child.’   

O then bespoke Joseph   
  With words so unkind,   
‘Let him pluck thee a cherry
  That brought thee with child.’           

O then bespoke the babe   
  Within his mother’s womb,   
‘Bow down then the tallest tree   
  For my mother to have some.’   

Then bow’d down the highest tree           
  Unto his mother’s hand:   
Then she cried, ‘See, Joseph,   
  I have cherries at command!’   

O then bespake Joseph—   
  ‘I have done Mary wrong;           
But cheer up, my dearest,   
  And be not cast down.   

‘O eat your cherries, Mary,   
  O eat your cherries now;   
O eat your cherries, Mary,           
  That grow upon the bough.’   

Then Mary pluck’d a cherry   
  As red as the blood;   
Then Mary went home   
  With her heavy load.           

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 clothéd   
  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.   

He neither shall be christen’d   
  In white wine nor red,   
But with fair spring water   
  With which we were christenéd.           

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 uprising shall be;   
O the sun and the moon, mother,           
  Shall both rise with me!’   

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