The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Falcon Carol

Earliest Version of The Corpus Christi Carol

Words: Traditional English, c. 1400
Balliol College, Oxford. MS. 354. XVI Century.

Music: Martin Shaw
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

Source: Martin Shaw and Percy Dearmer, The English Carol Book, Second Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co. Ltd., 1913), Carol #39

Lully, lulley, lully, lulley,
The falcon hath borne my make1 away.

1. He bare him up, he bare him down,
He bare him into an orchard brown. Burden

2. In that orchard there was a hall
That was all hung with purple and pall. Burden

3. And in that hall there was a bed,
'Twas hung around with gold so red. Burden

4. And in that bed there lieth a knight,
His wound do bleed by day and night. Burden

5. By that bedside kneeleth a may,
She weepeth sore both night and day. Burden

6. And by that bedside there standeth a stone,
With Corpus Christi written thereon. Burden


1. Make = mate. Return

Note from Shaw and Dearmer:

For the exact text of c. 1400, here slightly adapted for singing, see the First Series of the English Carol Book, p. 17, Over Yonder's A Park.

Verse 1: To make the meaning clearer, “mate” is substituted for the obsolete “make.”

Verse 5: “May” = maid.

Also found in Edith Rickert, Ancient English Christmas Carols: 1400-1700 (London: Chatto & Windus, 1914), p. 193. She adds this additional note at pages 299-300:

This carol, of which the follow following is a modern version, is interesting as showing the persistence of a lyric for four hundred years (the first version is probably of the fifteenth century, the second was taken from a recital of a boy who came with morris-dancers, some years before 1862, cf. Notes and Queries, third series, ii, p. 103); and also because it seems to have been suggested by some form of the legend of the Holy Grail. The Bleeding Knight is Christ, the "may" is His mother, the "falcon" is introduced apparently to suggest that the body of the person is a vision. It is interesting to note that the modern version is the more specific of the two, adding the hound which licks the blood (the Church?) and the Holy Thorn of Glastonbury, which is intimately associated with the Grail story. See: The Glastonbury Thorn.

Sheet Music from Martin Shaw and Percy Dearmer, The English Carol Book, Second Series (London: A. R. Mowbray & Co., Ltd., 1913), Carol #39
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

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