John Speller's Web Pages The Cherry Tree Carol -- Berkshire Gypsy Version

John Speller's Web Pages - Gipsy and Tinkers' Carols
The Cherry Tree Carol -- Berkshire Gypsy Version
This carol was collected from the mouth of a gipsy girl in Berkshire and published in Notes and Queries, Fourth Series, Volume XII (July-December, 1873; Saturday, Dec. 13, 1873), p. 461."

This version is interesting in that it seems to preserve a particularly ancient version of the text. The legend of the Cherry Tree comes from the apocryphal Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, Chapter 20:

"On the third day of the flight into Egypt, Mary, feeling the heat to be oppressive, tells Joseph that she will rest for a while under a palm-tree. Joseph helps her to light from her beast, and Mary, looking up from under the tree, and seeing it full of fruit, asks for some. Joseph somewhat testily expresses his surprise that she should think of such a thing, considering the height of the tree : he is much more concerned to get a supply of water. Then Jesus, sitting on his mother's lap, bids the palm to bow down and refresh his mother with its fruit. The palm instantly bends its top to Mary's feet."

It is interesting that Joseph and Mary are mentioned as being "abroad," which may be a reference to Egypt, and to being hot and seeking the coolness of a grove. Note also that Joseph married Mary, who is "from" Galilee, not "in" Galilee as in other versions. These details do not seem to be preserved in any of the other versions of the carol I have come across. I have supplied the missing two lines of the second stanza; these are pure conjecture.

The original tune has not been preserved with the text, and there are numerous possibilities. I have chosen this particular tune as being well-suited to the words; there is no saying what the original tune was.

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