“The Seven Joys of Mary”


The carol relates the (five, seven, nine) joys that Mary had: bearing Jesus, raising him, seeing his success and miracles, observing his crucifixion and resurrection, etc.


The notion of counting Mary's joys apparently goes back to at least the fourteenth century. In the liturgical poem "Marie Moder, Wel Thee Be!" we find a reference to Mary's "joyes five" (poem known from some fifty texts. For full text see MS. Rawlinson liturgical g.2. or the printing as #46 in Stevick-100MEL).

Although the number of joys in traditional texts runs as high as twelve, I suspect the original had about seven. This is because so many of the joys in the long texts are forced, even unbiblical. We can demonstrate this point by marching down the joys compiled in Brown and Cox:

One -- To think that her son Jesus Was God's eternal son: Luke 1:15

Two -- Could read the Bible through. Luke 2:46-47 shows Jesus, as a boy, discussing scripture, but it doesn't say he read it. It's likely enough that he could read, though; most Jewish children could, and Luke 4:17fff. shows him reading from Isaiah.

Three -- Could make the blind to see. Repeated references to this; the most primitive is perhaps in Mark 8:22-30.

Four -- Could turn the rich to poor. No known Biblical evidence of this. James 5:1 says "Your riches have rotted," and Jesus has warnings for the rich (e.g. the Wise Fool, Luke 12:16-21), but we don't see Jesus doing anything about it, unless it's a reference to cleansing the Temple (Mark 11:15-17, etc.)

Five -- Could make the dead alive. See, e.g., the raising of Lazarus, John 11.

Six: -- Brown (cf. Cox) "Heal the lame and sick." Numerous examples. But we also see "bear the crucifix," which is complicated. John says he bore his own cross (John 19:17), but the other gospels say Simon of Cyrene bore it (Mark 15:21, etc.)

Seven -- Carried the keys of heaven. Not biblical, and of course the issue of who will be saved is a controversial one.

Eight -- Brown: "Make the crooked straight. Cox: "Open the gates of heaven." Obviously an attempt to force an explanation

Nine -- Turn water to wine. The wedding at Cana, John 2.

Ten -- Brown: "Was a friend to sinful men." Compare the sinner washing Jesus's feet, Luke 7:37-50, etc. Cox: "Could write without a pen." Perhaps a reference to John 8:6 (a passage not found in the earliest manuscripts), but singularly inept in any case.

Eleven -- Could open the gates of heaven. Haven't we been here before?

Twelve -- Brown: "Came down to earth to dwell." Basic doctrine. Cox: "Done all things well." Allusion to Mark 7:37 or parallel. - RBW

The Bell/O Conchubhair melody is not the one I know but O Conchubhair's notes make the connection. Here the seven joys are (1) That she bore Him in a lowly byre (2) That she travelled with Him along the road (3) That He'd gone by reading His book (4) When he turned the water into wine (5) When He made the dead to live (6) When He redeemed the world with his blood (7) When He raised her to heaven alive. - BS


  • Bodleian, Douce adds. 137(19), "The Seven Joys," T. Bloomer (Birmingham), 1817-1827; also Harding B 7(34), Johnson Ballads 2833, Douce adds. 137(61), Harding B 7(28), Harding B 7(7), Harding B 7(66), Firth b.27(211), "The Seven Joys"; Harding B 7(65), Harding B 7(63), Harding B 7(30), "The Joys"


  1. Flanders/Olney, pp. 211-213, "The Seven Joys of Mary" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Creighton/Senior, pp.275-278 , "The Joys of Mary"; "The Blessings of Mary" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  3. Creighton-Maritime, pp. 172-173, "The Blessings of Mary" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. OBB 105, "The Twelve Good Joys" (1 text)
  5. OBC 70, "Joys Seven" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. JHCox 135, "The Twelve Joys" (1 text)
  7. BrownII 51, "The Twelve Blessings of Mary" (1 text)
  8. Lomax-FSNA 123, "The Seven Blessings of Mary" (1 text, 1 tune)
  9. Silber-FSWB, p. 363, "The Seven Blessings of Mary" (1 text)
  11. ADDITIONAL: Bell/O Conchubhair, Traditional Songs of the North of Ireland, pp. 107-110, "Seacht Suailci Na Maighdine Muire" ("The Seven Beatitudes of the Virgin Mary") [Gaelic and English]
  12. Ian Bradley, _The Penguin Book of Carols_ (1999), #76, "The First Good Joy that Mary Had" (1 text)
  13. Roud #278
  14. BI, FO211


Alternate titles: “Joys Seven”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1833 (Sandys)
Keywords: carol Jesus religious
Found in: US(Ap,NE) Canada(Mar) Britain(England) Ireland