Advent Calendar Day 4 – Jesus Christ the Apple Tree (Elizabeth Poston)

Continuing our apple theme from yesterday, here’s a modern carol that feels a bit medieval.  The lyrics are from an 18th century poem whose author is unknown except for the initials ‘R.H.’, and they aren’t strictly Christmassy, but that hasn’t stopped the choirs of King’s and St. John’s Colleges Cambridge and Trinity Cathedral in Cleveland (among, surely, many others) from including it in carol services, so as far as I’m concerned, this makes it fair game for an advent calendar!

I actually found two settings of this poem, and had a difficult choice deciding which one to feature.  On the one hand, we had this beautiful, reflective, 20th-century-trying-to-be-medieval setting by Elizabeth Poston, which is very sweet and restful and suits the lyrics, and is, in fact, the version of the carol that I fell in love with.

And then on the other hand, it turns out that a chap called Jeremiah Ingalls got there first in the early 19th century, with this incredibly jolly version that I am now absolutely desperate to sing, even though every part of me that has any sort of musical sensibility kind of secretly knows that it is completely the wrong sort of tune for these words.  I’m sorry, but if you are singing about how you are going to take your rest under Jesus Christ the Apple Tree, perhaps you should consider not being quite so energetic about it?  Or is that why you need to take your rest?

So you are getting Elizabeth Poston, because I think she understood the spirit of the poem rather better than Jolly Jeremiah Ingalls.  But if you want to know what has me so fascinated about the latter, you can follow this link to find out

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I missed of all but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

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