December 2nd, 2009

Christmas, Advent

Advent 2009: As Joseph Was A-Walking

This is a very old Christmas carol, and a pretty obscure one. Obscure enough, in fact, that I had never heard it before yesterday. The tune is less obscure; you may have heard it as the "Cherry Tree Carol." And there's a reason for that: "As Joseph Was A-Walking" is part of "Cherry Tree Carol." Most (but not all) contemporary recordings of "Cherry Tree Carol" omit the "Joseph Was A-Walking" verses, possibly because they would detract from the exquisite craziness of the first few verses.* Just as well, in my opinion; I think it works better on its own than as part of the longer version.

As Joseph Was A-Walking

As Joseph was a-walking
He heard an Angel sing:
"This night shall be the bith-time
of Christ the Heav'nly King;
He neither shall be bornèd
In housen nor in hall,
Nor in the place of Paradise,
But in an ox's stall."

"He neither shall be clothèd
In purple nor in pall;
But all in fair white linen
As usen babies all.
He neither shall be rockèd
In silver nor in gold;
But in a wooden cradle
That rocks upon the mould.

"He neither shall be christened
In white wine nor in red;
But with the fair spring water
With which we were christ'ned."
As Joseph was a-walking,
Thus did the Angel sing;
And Mary's Child at midnight
Was born to be our King.

The shepherds heard these tidings,
Rejoicing much in mind;
And went to Bethlem straightway
The Son of God to find.
Then, Christians, be ye merry,
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing;
For on this blessèd morning
Is born our Heav'nly King.

Author unknown (English, 15th century)

Previous Advent posts:

2003: People Look East
2004: The Virgin and Child with the Monkey
2005: A Merry Christmas
2006: Project began Dec. 3
2007: Adoration of the Christ Child
2008: All Alone on Christmas

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* No, really, they're completely nuts. Joseph and Mary are walking though a grove of cherry trees; Mary, being pregnant, asks Joseph to pick some cherries for her; Joseph suggests that maybe she should ask the guy who made her pregnant to help her; and Jesus, speaking in utero, commands the trees to bow down before Mary so she can reach the fruit. It's a story from the apocryphal Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew. [return]

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