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The Seven Joys of Mary

[ Roud 278 ; Ballad Index FO211 ; VWML CJS2/10/2706A ; trad.]

Teresa Maguire of Belfast sang the traditional carol The Joys of Mary in August 1955 to Seán O'Boyle (BBC recording 24842). This recording was included a few years later on the anthology Songs of Christmas / Songs of Ceremony (The Folk Songs of Britain Volume 9; Caedmon 1961; Topic 1970).

George Dunn sang The Seven Joys of Mary On June 21, 1971 to Roy Palmer. This recording was included in 2002 on his Musical Traditions anthology Chainmaker. Roy Palmer commented in the accompanying booklet:

When George first sang this to me, on 14 June 1971, he remembered only two verses (two: a-reading the bible through; and seven: a-pointing the way to heaven), with the interjection of ‘good Lord’ in the chorus, rather than ‘my boys’. At his request I sent him a local text from Wednesbury (in F.W. Hackwood, Staffordshire Customs, Superstitions & Folklore, Lichfield, 1924, pp.52-3), which by a week later he had adopted. The enumeration of Mary's joys goes back perhaps to the fourteenth century with the Joyes Fyve of the Sloane MSS. The catalogue sometimes extends to twelve, as in one version noted by Sharp in 1907.

As with many songs of a religious nature, this was fairly popular, with 80 Roud entries—almost all from England or the USA—though there are only two other sound recordings. Seán O' Boyle recorded a Mrs Maguire somewhere in the north of Ireland for the BBC in 1955, and Mrs Olive Coberly sang it for Max Hunter in Missouri in 1958.

Martyn Wyndham-Read and Geoff and Penny Harris sang The Seven Joys of Mary in 1975 on the Trailer album Maypoles to Mistletoe. Martyn Wyndham-Read and Iris Bishop sang it on the CD accompanying his 2008 book with the same name, Maypoles to Mistletoe.

June Tabor and Maddy Prior sang The Seven Joys of Mary in 1976 on their album Silly Sisters. The album's sleeve notes commented:

Learned from Vic Legg of Bodmin. Arrangement by John Gillaspie, folklorist of this parish, who informs us that verse six is an interpolation from the Seven Do lours of Mary.

Coope Boyes & Simpson, Fie Fraser, Jo Freya, and Georgina Boyes sang The First Good Joy Our Mary Had in 2006 on their No Masters CD Voices at the Door.

Tim van Eyken sang a Cornish Twelve Joys of Mary in 2006 on his Topic CD Stiffs Lovers Holymen Thieves.

Magpie Lane sang The Nine Joys of Mary in 2006 on their Beautiful Jo CD of carols, songs and tunes for the Christmas season Knock at the Knocker, Ring at the Bell. Their singer Andy Turner returned to The Seven Joys of Mary in 2013 and sang it as the December 1, 2013 entry of his project A Folk Song a Week.

The Albion Christmas Band sang The Seven Joys of Mary in 2008 on their CD Snow on Snow and a year later on their CD Traditional.

Kate Rusby sang this song as Seven Good Joys on her 2011 Christmas album, While Mortals Sleep, and on her 2013 Christmas DVD Live at Christmas.

Lyrics

George Dunn sings The Seven Joys of Mary June Tabor and Maddy Prior sing The Seven Joys of Mary

The first good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of one,
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
A-sucking at her breast-bone.

The first good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of one,
To see the blessed Jesus Christ
When he was first her son.

Chorus (after each verse repeating its last line):
A-sucking at her breast-bone, my boys,
And happy may we be.
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost
To all eternity.

Chorus (after each verse repeating its last line):
When he was first her son, good man,
And blessed may he be,
Both Father, Son and Holy Ghost
Through all eternity.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of two,
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
A-making the lame to go.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of two,
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
To make the lame to go.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of three,
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
A-making the blind to see.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of three,
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
To make the blind to see.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of four,
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
A-preaching to the poor.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of four,
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
To read the bible o'er.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of five,
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
A-making the dead alive.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of five,
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
To bring the dead alive.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of six,
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
Raised on the crucifix.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of six,
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
Upon the crucifix.

The next good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of seven,
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
Ascending up to heaven.

The last good joy that Mary had,
It was the joy of seven,
To see her own son, Jesus Christ,
To wear the crown of heaven.