I sing of a maiden
That is makeles:
King of all kings
To her son she ches.

He came al so stille
There his moder was,
As dew in Aprille
That falleth on the grass.

He came al so stille
To his moder's bour,
As dew in Aprille
That falleth on the flour.

He came al so stille
There his moder lay,
As dew in Aprille
That falleth on the spray.

Moder and maiden
Was never none but she:
Well may such a lady
Goddes moder be.

Tudor, Tasha. Take Joy!: The Tasha Tudor Christmas Book.                                           Cleveland: Collins and World, 1966.


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

As they went a walking
In the garden so gay,
Maid Mary spied cherries,
Hanging over yon tree.

Mary said to Joseph
With her sweet lips so mild,
"Pluck those cherries, Joseph,
For to give to my Child."

"O then," replied Joseph
With words so unkind,
"I will pluck no cherries
For to give to thy Child."

Mary said to cherry tree,
"Bow down to my knee,
That I may pluck cherries
By one, two, and three."

The uppermost sprig then
Bowed down to her knee:
"Thus you may see, Joseph,
These cherries are for me."

"O eat your cherries, Mary,
O eat your cherries now,
O eat your cherries, Mary,
That grow upon the bough."

As Joseph was a-walking
He heard the Angels sing,
This night there shall be born
Our heavenly king.

"He neither shall be born
In house nor in hall,
Nor in the place of Paradise,
But in an ox-stall.

"He shall not be clothed
In purple nor pall;
But all in fair linen,
As wear babies all.

"He shall not be rocked,
In silver nor gold,
But in a wooden cradle
That rocks on the mould.

"He neither shall be christened
In milk, nor in wine,
But in pure spring-well water
Fresh sprung from Bethine."

Mary took her Baby,
She dressed him so sweet,
She laid Him in a manger
All there for to sleep.

As she stood over Him
She heard Angels sing,
"Oh! bless our dear Savior,
Our heavenly King."

Traditional, Old English Air
Tudor, Tasha. Take Joy!: The Tasha Tudor Christmas Book.                                          Cleveland: Collins and Ward, 1966.

As William Studwell points out, however, there is not a single "Cherry Tree Carol."  Rather, this is a combination of three separate 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 an Easter carol, "Mary's Question," which begins with the stanza "Then Mary took her young Son."

Studwell writes "The truth of the matter is that there are a number of "Cherry Tree" carols so that instead of the very misleading singular form a multiple designation such as "The Cherry Tree Carols," or even better, "The Cherry Tree Carol Series" should be substituted.

Bradley notes that multiple theories exist concerning the symbolism of the carol.  He writes, "Some folklorists point to the widespread use in folklore of the gift of a cherry, or similar fruit carrying its own seed, as a divine authentication of human fertility."  He also notes the relationship between the eating of the fruit by Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the eating of cherries by Mary whose son would erase the transgression.  He adds that some versions have Mary and Joseph walking through a garden, rather than an orchard, reinforcing the motif of the Garden of Eden.

It has also been noted that the apocryphal Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, Chapter 20, has a story that during their flight into Egypt, Mary sits beneath a palm tree and desires its dates, but is unable to reach them.  Joseph is unable to climb the tree, but when Jesus intervenes, the tree bows down to give Mary the fruit.

Cecil Sharp captured six American versions that were published in English Folk Songs From the Southern Appalachians (1932):

  1. As Joseph and Mary Were A-Walking the Green (Mrs. Tom Rice, 1916)
  2. Joseph Were a Young Man (Mr. William, 1916)
  3. When Joseph Was a Young Man (Mr. William Wooton, 1917)
  4. Joseph Was a Young Man (Mrs. Margaret Dunagan, 1917)
  5. Joseph Was a Young Man (Mrs. Alice and Mrs. Sudie Sloan, 1917)
  6. Joseph Took Mary All on His Right Knee (Mrs. Townsley, 1917)

For more information click into The Cherry Tree Carol and What is the significance and/or history of cherry wood as it relates to Mary?


When neither kings nor kin were there,
it mattered little, Mary Love,
just who was there or anywhere,
for Love Itself, for Love was there.

Full many were dismayed a King
could not afford more royal wear,
have nobles by, and glittering spears,
and a crown of gold for His hair.

No senates came with tribute due,
the most of men seemed not to care,
It mattered little, Mary Love,
for Love Itself, and you, were there.

Herbert, Albert Joseph. Mary, Our Blessed Lady. Exposition Press, 1970.


The lights that fill Our Lady's eyes
Flood not from merely mortal skies.
Our Lady is the stirring word
Archangel Michael may have heard,
Pure Maiden in a Virgin's white,
Yet Mother throned on highest height.
Whose arms were nest God made His own,
Whose lap He fashioned for His throne;
Whose Motherhood is the one rose
Like which no other flower grows.
Although no mortal holds her place
Humbleness is sweet upon her face.
Because she holds One at her side
Her arms to all are Mother-wide;
For each tired heart calm on her breast
Is her own Son obtaining rest.
Each knows a kiss sweet with all grace
From lips that brush God's Infant face;
Each lives the golden childhood dream
That Beauty is and does not seem,
That by Her hearts might ever stay
And never note the passing day,
In joy of being by her side
As Jesus was at Christmastide.

I think though I would always sing
of Her, my song be futile thing.
For She is Music from Above,
But I pipe earthly notes of love.

For Our Lady of Perpetual Help,
among the lights in Clonard Monastery Church,
Belfast, Christmas (Blackout)
Hebert, Albert Joespeh. Mary, Our Blessed Lady.
New York: Exposition Press, 1970.

Mary and the Innkeeper's Wife
by Marilyn Eynon Scott

As Mary wrapped the Child in swaddling bands
and laid him tenderly upon the straw,
her mind recalled the journey's harsh demands,
how she left behind the pale blue shawl,
the coverlet and matching small white hood,
the woolen gowns and shirts that she had sewed,
the cradle Joseph built of fine grained wood,
too burdensome for travel on the road.

The innkeeper's wife watched Mary and the Child,
her barrenness more poignant in her breast.
But as she hastened to the inn, she smiled,
and in her room she dusted off a chest.
With loving care she lifted out each thing...
her treasured dream, she knew, would befit a King.



Christmas Carol 
(for Berna Hayden)
by Desmond Egan,

London Tablet Christmas 1993

an ice shadow will crunch under the tyres
again when we turn the gate from Midnight Mass
heading for windowlight waiting like a cup of tea.
next morning as usual the horses
will be ridden out steaming after their hoofprints
while a robin in the thicket rehearses spring
and when someone goes to get turf
the hoards of leaves will lie unnoticed
as the grey mysterious Liffey slowing
through sallow fields where sheep
munch among the witheredy ragworth
while a wavy V of geese disappears
high and silent down the sky
and somewhere the unnoticed infant
has come into the world again
is lying on our straw
softening everything as a baby does
smiling deepening the peace
of Christmas in Kildare.


The Oxen
by Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock
'Now they are all on their knees.'
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
'Come, see the oxen kneel.'
IN the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know
I should g with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

(from a book of Christmas poems...)

A Christmas Hymn
by Richard Wilber

A stable-lamp is lighted
Whose glow shall wake the sky;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
And straw like gold shall shine;
A barn shall harbor heaven,
A stall become a shrine.

This child through David's city
Shall ride in triumph by;
The palm shall strew its branches,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
Though heavy, dull, and dumb,
And lie within the roadway
To pave his kingdom come.

Yet he shall be forsaken,
And yielded up to die;
The sky shall groan and darken,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry
For stony hearts of men:
God's blood upon the spearhead,
God's love refused again.

But now, as at the ending,
The low is lifted high;
The stars shall bend their voices,
And every stone shall cry.
And every stone shall cry,
In praises of the child,
By whose descent among us,
The worlds are reconciled.


A Moment of Nativity
by Virginia Kimball

It is a tender grasping little fist
that wraps her finger mightily that day,
so small and warm, holding tightly on ...
timely bond of mother with newborn life.
This mother's love is ageless, a sweet kiss
on a son's cuddled, moist head her way
...discovering a gift of love upon
a red birthing mat in that darkened cave.

He's a gift of light from God...of touching,
a truth divinely lent as she nurses,
creation's miracle always spinning
at fresh moments of eternal birthing.
So fondly in a brief glimpse of clutching,
the infinite bubbles out. And curses
of darkness, cold separation in winds
of loneliness from God, are bathing

in the midwife's washing pool
which thrusts her child, like a fool
into frigid water of our days
soon surely swirling with the Spirit's warmth.
Can we remember what the prophet says?
We forget. Forget ...As the mother's breast
spills calming milk into his rooting mouth,
 we hope for God's strength in the coming test.

She smiles. Timeless little one gurgles.
Through that door of hope, a door ajar,
Life forms creation's gentle realm of flesh,
enlightening the mother's waiting heart,
insight to GLORY in the Christmas creche ...

A Story of Nativity

Timelessness  once created time 
by word of Other!
Two earthlings embraced restlessness,
wanting no other
but themselves in a selfhood-ness.

Timelessness  entering into time  . . .
by Word of Other!
Then Timelessness was restless too
(love's deep dimension),
breathing creation anew.

Mary challenged the dark chaos
that Shalom lost; trusting Being --
lotus opened to Spirit-ness.

Earthling's feminine spoke her "yes"
Eve and Adam born with new light,
earthling's answer to Other-ness.

Woman trembles as life enfolds
mother aching with Passion's gift,
Mary throbbing with Life Untold.

Virginia Kimball, Christmas 2001

Return to Marian Poetry Index


This page, maintained by The Marian Library/International Marian Research Institute, Dayton, Ohio 45469-1390, and created by Michael P. Duricy , was last modified Monday, 06/09/2008 12:36:44 EDT by Michael P. Duricy . Please send any comments to

URL for this page is