The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Coventry Carol

For the Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28

Version from R.R. Terry

Compare: The Coventry Carol, Sharp (1817)
The Coventry Carol, Bramley and Stainer (1878)
The Coventry Carol, Dearmer and Shaw (1913)
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: Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #199, p. 54.
Also found in Terry's
Old Christmas Carols.

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

1. Lully, lulla you little tiny child;
By, by lully, lullay.
    You little tiny child;
By, by, lully, lullay.

2. O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day,
    This poor youngling,
    For whom we sing
By, by, lully, lullay?

3. Herod the King in his raging
Charged he hath this day,
    His men of might
    In his own sight,
All children young to slay.

4. That woe is me, poor Child, for Thee
And ever mourn and say,
    For Thy parting,
    Nor say nor sing
By, by, lully, lullay.

Sheet Music from Richard Runciman Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne Limited, 1933), Carol #199, p. 54.

199-Coventry_Carol.jpg (90277 bytes)

Sheet Music from Richard R. Terry, Old Christmas Carols. Part One. (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd., n.d., ca. 1923), Carol #25, p. 32.

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."


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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