The Coventry carol

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child

Music: 16th C. anon. arr. Frances Cockburn, Words: 16th C. anon

Voicing: SAA

Performance time approx: 2m 30s

Range S: f♯'–f♯'' / A1: b♭–d'' / A2: f–g'

Price code: C


The haunting story of Herod’s massacre of young boys is the subject of this renaissance carol. The original version, transcribed by Robert Croo in 1534, was one of three songs in the Pageant of Shearmen and Tailors, one of a whole cycle of ‘mystery plays’ or religious pageants from the city of Coventry in the West midlands. The plays were performed from at least as early as the late 14th century until the late 16th century. The Shearmen and Tailors pageant was a telling of the nativity story and the carol is a lament by the women of Bethlehem before Herod’s murder of their young children.

Frances’ sober arrangement is – like the original – homophonic (all parts moving together with the tune). Optionally repeat the opening refrain between verses.

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay,
Thou little tiny child,
Bye bye, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we sing:
Bye bye, lully, lullay?

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

That woe is me, poor child, for thee,
And ever mourn and may
For thy parting neither say nor sing
Bye bye, lully, lullay.

16th century anon. (some words modernised)

Card ImageChristmas, midwinter, New Year

The Coventry carol

Frances Cockburn


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