... an old carol, dating to the Coventry Plays performed during the Feast of Corpus Christi, ca. 1400,1 and more than 400 years later, [in 1823 William] Hone reports, the carol is "still sung in London, and many parts of England."Cecil Sharp collected the following version Joseph Were A Young Man from Mrs. Jane Gentry at Hot Springs, N.C., Aug. 24, 1916
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As William Studwell points out, however, there is not a single "Cherry Tree Carol." Rather, this is a combination of three separate folk carols which later merged. The first carol, based on the above quoted exchange, is "Joseph Was An Old Man." The second carol begins with the stanza "As Joseph Was A Walking" (also known as Joseph and the Angel). Finally, there is the Easter carol, "Mary's Question," which begins with the stanza "Then Mary took her young Son."
Hepatonic. Mode 3, a+b (ionian).
Excerpt from Songs of the Carolina Charter Colonists 1663-1763, by Arthur Palmer Hudson. (Raleigh: Carolina Charter Tercentenary Commission, 1962). Out-of-Print Bookshelf, Colonial Records Project, North Carolina Office of Archives & History, Department of Cultural Resources, Raleigh http://www.ncpublications.com/colonial/Bookshelf/Monographs/songs/chap1.htm:
THE CHERRY TREE CAROL: CESPB 54 (from 18th c. broadside, based on an old apocryphal legend); SEFSA [Sharp] I.90-91 (2 N. C. te. and tu.); BCNCF [Brown] II.61-63; HCF (tape). The pregnant Mary asks Joseph for cherries. He tells her to let the father of her baby get them for her. From her womb Jesus rebukes Joseph and bids the cherry tree bow down. He then prophesies His death, burial, and resurrection.