The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Lulle, Lullay

For the Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28

The version collected by John Jacob Niles in Appalachia, 1934
The musical arrangement published by G. Schirmer is distributed by
Hal Leonard Corporation, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Compare: The Coventry Carol, Sharp (1817)
The Coventry Carol, Bramley and Stainer (1878)
The Coventry Carol, Dearmer and Shaw (1913)
The Coventry Carol, Terry, Two Hundred Folk Carols (1933)

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

Lullay, Thou tiny little Child
    Bye-bye, lulle, lullay;
Lullay, Thou tiny little Child,
    Bye-bye, lulle, lullay.

Oh sisters two, how may we do
    To preserve this day?
This poor Childling for whom we sing
    Bye-bye, lulle, lullay.

Herod, the King, in his raging,
    Charged he hath this day
His soldiers in their strength and might,
    All children young to slay.

Then woe is me, poor Child, for Thee,
    And ever mourn and say,
For at thy parting nor say nor sing
    Bye-bye, lulle, lullay.

And when the stars ingather do,
    In their far venture stay,
Then smile as dreaming, Little One,
    Bye-bye, lulle, lullay.

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.

According to Niles, it was recorded at an Old-timers day, June 16, 1934, in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, from the singing of an old lady known only to me as "the old lady with the gray hat." Niles believed that the song came from the Shapenote singers.

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