The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

My Sweet Little Babie

An Old Carol, With Lullaby

For Christmas

Alternate Title: Lulla, Lullaby

Middle English

Original Source: William Byrd from Psalmes, sonets, & songs of sadnes and pietie made into musicke of fiue parts (London: Thomas East, the assigne of VV. Byrd, 1588), No. 32, "Lulla, Lullaby."

Source: William Sandys, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern (London: Richard Beckley, 1833)

Compare: Be Still, My Blessed Babe - Husk
My Sweet Little Baby (Rickert)

    Lulla, la lulla, lulla lullaby,
My sweet little babie, what meanest thou to cry?

1. Bee still, my blessed babe, though cause thou hast to mourne,
Whose bloud most innocent the cruell king hath sworne:
And lo, alas, behold, what slaughter he doth make,
Shedding the blood of infants all, sweet Saviour, for thy sake:
A king is bourne, they say, which king this king would kill,
Oh woe, and woeful heauy day, when wretches haue their will.

    Lulla, la lulla, lulla lullaby,
My sweet little babie, what meanest thou to cry?

2. Three kings this king of kings to see, are come from farre,
To each unknowen, with offerings great, by guiding of a starre:
And shepheards heard the song, which angells bright did sing,
Giuing all glory vnto God, for comming of this king,
Which must be made away, King Herod would him kill.
Oh woe, and woful heauie day, when wretches have their will.

    Lulla, la lulla, lulla lullaby,
My sweet little babie, what meanest thou to cry?

3. Loe, my little babe, bee still, lament no more,
From furie shalt thou step aside, help have wee still in store;
We heauenly warnings have, some other soyle to seeke,
From death must flie the lord of life, as lamb both mild and meeke:
Thus must my babe obey the king that would him kill,
Oh woe, and wofull heauie day, when wretches haue their will.

    Lulla, la lulla, lulla lullaby,
My sweet little babie, what meanest thou to cry?

4. But thou shalt liue and reigne, as Sibilles have foresayd,
As all the prophets prophesie, whose mother, yet a maide,
And perfect virgin pure, with her brestes shall vpbreede
Both God and man that all hath made, the sonne of heauenly seede:
Whom caytiues none can traye, whom tyrants none can kill,
Oh ioy, and ioyfull happie day, when wretches want their will.

Sandys' Note:

From "Tenor, Psalmes, Sonets, and Songs of Sadnes and Pietie, made into Musicke of Five Parts, &c by William Byrd, one of the Gent. of the Queene's Maiestie's Royall Chappell, &c. London, 1587," and printed therefrom in Cens. Liter. vol. x. pp. 187-88.

Also found in Joshua Sylvester, A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (London: John Camden Hotten, 1861)

This carol is taken from "Tenor Psalmes, Sonets, and Songs of Sadnes and Pietie, made into Musick of Five Parts, &c. by William Byrd, one of the Gent. of of the Queenes Maiestie's Royall Chapell, &c. London, 1587," and printed therefrom in "Cens. Liter." Vol. x. pp. 187-8. Herod's cruel massacre is a common subject in children's carols.

Note that Hugh Keyte, an editor of The New Oxford Book of Carols (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992) believes that "Joshua Sylvestre" is a pseudonym for a collaboration between William Sandys (1792-1874) and William Henry Husk (1814-1887). See Appendix 4.

Scores are available at several on-line sources, including

Also available through the Early English Books initiative, phase II (EEBO-TCP Phase 2) <http://name.umdl.umich.edu/A17432.0001.001> (not yet open to the general public as of Jan. 2017).

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