The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Dilly Carol

Words and Music: English Traditional

Source: Ralph Dunstan, The Cornish Song Book (London: Reid Bros., Ltd., 1929), p. 128-9.

See: Notes on Twelve Days of Christmas

1. "Come and I will sing you."
"What will you sing me?
"I will sing you ONE, O,"
"What is your ONE, O?"
    One of them was all alone,
    Ever will remain so.

2. "Come and I will sing you."
"What will you sing me?
"I will sing you TWO, O,"
"What is your TWO, O?"
    Two of them were lily-white babes,
    Clothed all in green, O
    One of them was all alone,
    Ever will remain so.

3. "Come and I will sing you."
"What will you sing me?
"I will sing you THREE, O,"
"What is your THREE, O?"
    Three of them were strangers,    
    Two of them were lily-white babes,
    Clothed all in green, O
    One of them was all alone,
    Ever will remain so.

4. "Come and I will sing you."
"What will you sing me?
"I will sing you FOUR, O,"
"What is your FOUR, O?"
    Four, the four Evangelists,
    Three of them were strangers,    
    Two of them were lily-white babes,
    Clothed all in green, O
    One of them was all alone,
    Ever will remain so.

5. "Come and I will sing you."
"What will you sing me?
"I will sing you FIVE, O,"
"What is your FIVE, O?"
    Five, the Ferryman in the boat
    Four, the four Evangelists,
    Three of them were strangers,    
    Two of them were lily-white babes,
    Clothed all in green, O
    One of them was all alone,
    Ever will remain so.

6. "Come and I will sing you."
"What will you sing me?
"I will sing you SIX, O,"
"What is your SIX, O?"
    Six, the Gospel Preacher,
    Five, the Ferryman in the boat
    Four, the four Evangelists,
    Three of them were strangers,    
    Two of them were lily-white babes,
    Clothed all in green, O
    One of them was all alone,
    Ever will remain so.

7. "Come and I will sing you."
"What will you sing me?
"I will sing you SEVEN, O,"
"What is your SEVEN, O?"
    Seven, the seven stars in the sky,
    Six, the Gospel Preacher,
    Five, the Ferryman in the boat
    Four, the four Evangelists,
    Three of them were strangers,    
    Two of them were lily-white babes,
    Clothed all in green, O
    One of them was all alone,
    Ever will remain so.

8. "Come and I will sing you."
"What will you sing me?
"I will sing you EIGHT, O,"
"What is your EIGHT, O?"
    Eight it is the Morning Break
        When all the world's awake, O.
    Seven, the seven stars in the sky,
    Six, the Gospel Preacher,
    Five, the Ferryman in the boat
    Four, the four Evangelists,
    Three of them were strangers,    
    Two of them were lily-white babes,
    Clothed all in green, O
    One of them was all alone,
    Ever will remain so.

9. "Come and I will sing you."
"What will you sing me?
"I will sing you NINE, O,"
"What is your NINE, O?"
    Ten, the Commandments,
        And ten begins again, O
    Nine, is the dilly Bird,
        That's never seen but heard, O.
 

10. "Come and I will sing you."
"What will you sing me?
"I will sing you TEN, O,"
"What is your TEN, O?"
    Ten, the Commandments,
        And ten begins again, O

Sheet Music

Notes from Dr. Dunstan:

The mythical Dilly Bird was supposed to come only at Christmas and was "never seen but heard-O." Variants of the Dilly Carol are sung in most of the countries of Europe. The following is exactly as I have many times heard it — generally sung by three singers at or about the time of Twelfth Night — in West Cornwall. The chorus may be accompanied; the other portions, for solo voices, must be un-accompanied.

ALLUSIONS:

"One of them:"                   God the Father

"Two of them:"                   Christ and John the Baptist

"Three of them:"                 The Three Magi

"Five, the Ferryman:"           Charon.

"Six, the Preacher:"             Probably St. Paul

"Seven, the seven Stars:"    The Pleiades.

As in most of the Mediæval Miracle Plays and Mysteries, and many of the old Carols, Christian Doctrines are mingled with fragments of Heathen Mythology, etc.

Editor's Note:

This is one of many "counting" songs among the hymns and carols of Christmas. See the notes to the Twelve Days of Christmas.

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