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> Shirley Collins > Songs > The Coventry Carol
> Maddy Prior > Songs > Lully, Lullay, Thou Little Tiny Child

The Coventry Carol / Lullay, Lullay

[ Roud 19028 ; Ballad Index OBC022 ; trad.]

Pupils from Wisbech Grammar School sang the Coventry Carol in the Live Christmas Day 1957 Broadcast on BBC Radio organised by Alan Lomax. This was published in 2000 on the Alan Lomax Collection CD Sing Christmas and the Turn of the Year.

In 1969, The Young Tradition split up while recording their album of Christmas songs with Shirley and Dolly Collins, The Holly Bears the Crown; and it was only in 1995 that the album was finally released. One of the carols on this album is The Coventry Carol. Shirley Collins and Heather Wood commented in the album's liner notes:

From one of the Coventry Mystery or Miracle plays, in the Pageant of the Shearmen and Taylors. It is known that in 1484 Richard III attended a performance of the Pageant and would have heard this carol.

Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band sang Lully, Lullay, Thou Little Tiny Child in 1986 on their Saydisc album A Tapestry of Carols, and in 1998 on their Park Records CD Carols at Christmas.

Sue Brown and Lorraine Irwing sang the Coventry Carol in 1997 on their WildGoose CD Call & Cry.

Coope Boyes & Simpson sang The Coventry Carol in 1998 on their No Masters CD A Garland of Carols and a year later on their CD with Wereldkoor Wak Maar Proper, Christmas Truce Kerstbestand.

Corrina Hewat sang Lullay Lullay (The Coventry Carol) live at The Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland on December 21, 2003. This concert was released a year later on the Green Linnet CD Cold Blow These Winter Winds.

The Witches of Elswick sang Lullay, Lullay in 2005 on their second and last album, Hell's Belles. They commented in their liner notes:

We recorded in December so much to Becky's delight (she gets a little over-excited about Christmas, starting from around August) we decided to stick our one and only carol on the album. It is a haunting record of Herod's slaughter of boys under two in Bethlehem, and “lullay” is reputedly Old English slang for “I saw”. The Carol dates back to the 16th century, unlike Becky's fibre-optic Santa which dates back to 2002.

Bella Hardy sang The Coventry Carol in 2012 on her CD Bright Morning Star. This video shows her in the BBC 2 programme The Truth About Carols broadcast on Christmas Day 2008:

And in this video, Lady Maisery sing The Coventry Carl:

Lyrics

The Young Tradition sing The Coventry Carol The Witches of Elswick sing Lullay, Lullay

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child
By, by, lully, lullay
Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child
By, by, lully, lullay

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child
By, by, lully, lullay
Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child
By, by, lully, lullay

Oh sisters two, how may we do
For to preserve this day?
This poor youngling for whom we do sing,
“By, by, lully, lullay.”

Oh sisters two, how may we do
For to preserve this day?
This poor youngling for whom we do sing,
“By, by, lully, lullay.”

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

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

That woe is me, poor child, for thee,
And ever mourn and may,
For thy parting nor say nor sing,
“By, by, lully, lullay.”

Oh woe is me, poor child, for thee,
And ever mourn and pray,
At thy parting nor say nor sing,
“By, by, lully, lullay.”

And when the stars ingather do
In their far venture stay
Then smile as dreaming, Little One,
“By, by, lully, lullay.”