The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Coventry Carol

For the Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28

Version from Dearmer and Shaw (1913)

Compare: The Coventry Carol, Sharp (1817)
The Coventry Carol, Bramley and Stainer (1878)
The Coventry Carol, Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (1933)
The Coventry Carol (Lulle Lullay), collected by John Jacob Niles (1934)

Words Attributed to Robert Croo, 1534

English Melody, 1591
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / Sheet Music

Source: Martin Shaw and Percy Dearmer, The English Carol Book, Second Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1913), Carol #38.

This carol is named after the city of Coventry, England, where the Pageant of the Shearmen and Tailors
anciently depicted Herod's slaughter of the innocents, as told in the lyrics. See:
Notes to The Coventry Carol

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
     By by, lully, lullay.

1. O sisters too,
How may we do,
     For to preserve this day?
This poor Youngling
For Whom we sing
     By by, lully, lullay?

2. Herod the king,
In his raging,
     Chargd he hath this day
His men of might,
In his own sight,
     All young children to slay.

3. That woe is me,
Poor Child for Thee!
     And ever morn and may,
For thy parting
Neither say nor sing,
     By, by, lully, lullay.

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny Child,
     By by, lully, lullay

Sheet Music from Martin Shaw and Percy Dearmer, The English Carol Book, Second Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1913), Carol #38

The Gospel According to Matthew
Chapter 2, verses 16 - 18

"Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all the region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

"A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled,
because they were no more."


Also found in Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 76. Rickert duplicates the second line of of the burden:

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.
By, by, lully, lullay.

This is one of many songs which relate to the Holy Innocents, whose feast day is December 28. For more, please see The Hymns Of The Holy Innocents.

See, generally, Corpus Christi Day and the Performance of Mysteries, from William Hone, The Every Day Book, 2 Vols. London: William Tegg, 1825, 1827 (Volume 1, June 2).

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